Seasonally varying populations of ectothermic insect taxa from a given locality are expected to cope with simultaneous changes in temperature and humidity through phenotypic plasticity. Accordingly, we investigated the effect of saturation deficit on resistance to desiccation in wild-caught flies from four seasons (spring, summer, rainy and autumn) and corresponding flies reared in the laboratory under season-specific simulated temperature and humidity growth conditions. Flies raised under summer conditions showed approximately three times higher desiccation resistance and increased levels of cuticular lipids compared with flies raised in rainy season conditions. In contrast, intermediate trends were observed for water balance-related traits in flies reared under spring or autumn conditions but trait values overlapped across these two seasons. Furthermore, a threefold difference in saturation deficit (an index of evaporative water loss due to a combined thermal and humidity effect) between summer (27.5 mB) and rainy (8.5 mB) seasons was associated with twofold differences in the rate of water loss. Higher dehydration stress due to a high saturation deficit in summer is compensated by storage of higher levels of energy metabolite (trehalose) and cuticular lipids, and these traits correlated positively with desiccation resistance. In Z. indianus, the observed changes in desiccation-related traits due to plastic effects of simulated growth conditions correspond to similar changes exhibited by seasonal wild-caught flies. Our results show that developmental plastic effects under ecologically relevant thermal and humidity conditions can explain seasonal adaptations for water balance-related traits in Z. indianus and are likely to be associated with its invasive potential.
The authors declare no competing or financial interests.
B.K. was involved in conceptualization, experimentation, interpretation and analysis of results. B.K. and R.P. both wrote and revised the text.
Financial assistance to R.P. from the university grant commission [2015-2017/Emeritus-2015-17-GEN-8112/SA-II] and B.K. [Biocare] from the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, New Delhi [project no. BT/AB/08/01/2008 III] is gratefully acknowledged.
- Received March 29, 2016.
- Accepted August 5, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd