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Biol Lett. 2010 June 23; 6(3): 346–349.
Published online 2009 November 24. doi:  10.1098/rsbl.2009.0873
PMCID: PMC2880048

Ageing and thermal performance in the sub-Antarctic wingless fly Anatalanta aptera (Diptera: Sphaeroceridae): older is better


Senescence is a progressive biological process expressed in behavioural, morphological, physiological, biochemical and cellular age-related changes. Age-associated alterations in activity are regularly found in insects when examining whole-organism senescence over the adult lifespan. In addition, overall stress resistance usually decreases with senescence. In the present study, we measured the critical thermal minimum (CTmin) and the subsequent recovery period over the lifespan of the sub-Antarctic wingless fly, Anatalanta aptera. Experiments were conducted on males and females in seven age groups: newly emerged, 1.5-, 5-, 7-, 13-, 15- and 18-month-old adults. Surprisingly, CTmin decreased significantly with ageing in A. aptera, from −3.8 ± 0.5°C just after the emergence to −5.6 ± 0.7°C in the 18-month-old flies. The subsequent recovery period remained similar between the seven groups tested. Our unexpected results contradict the previous data collected in other insects. We have demonstrated for the first time that ageing may improve rather than impair locomotor activity during unfavourable thermal conditions. It raises questions and challenges the literature dealing with ageing. These fascinating results also question the underpinning mechanisms involved in the improvement of the thermal performance with ageing in A. aptera.

Keywords: senescence, CTmin, locomotor activity, fly, chill-coma recovery

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