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Transient and Permanent Experience with Fatty Acids Changes Drosophila melanogaster Preference and Fitness
Food and host-preference relies on genetic adaptation and sensory experience. In vertebrates, experience with food-related cues during early development can change adult preference. This is also true in holometabolous insects, which undergo a drastic nervous system remodelling during their complete metamorphosis, but remains uncertain in Drosophila melanogaster. We have conditioned D. melanogaster with oleic (C18∶1) and stearic (C18∶0) acids, two common dietary fatty acids, respectively preferred by larvae and adult. Wild-type individuals exposed either during a transient period of development–from embryo to adult–or more permanently–during one to ten generation cycles–were affected by such conditioning. In particular, the oviposition preference of females exposed to each fatty acid during larval development was affected without cross-effect indicating the specificity of each substance. Permanent exposure to each fatty acid also drastically changed oviposition preference as well as major fitness traits (development duration, sex-ratio, fecundity, adult lethality). This suggests that D. melanogaster ability to adapt to new food sources is determined by its genetic and sensory plasticity both of which may explain the success of this generalist-diet species.
Fatty-Acid Preference Changes during Development in Drosophila melanogaster
Fatty-acids (FAs) are required in the diet of many animals throughout their life. However, the mechanisms involved in the perception of and preferences for dietary saturated and unsaturated FAs (SFAs and UFAs, respectively) remain poorly explored, especially in insects. Using the model species Drosophila melanogaster, we measured the responses of wild-type larvae and adults to pure SFAs (14, 16, and 18 carbons) and UFAs (C18 with 1, 2, or 3 double-bonds). Individual and group behavioral tests revealed different preferences in larvae and adults. Larvae preferred UFAs whereas SFAs tended to induce both a strong aversion and a persistent aggregation behavior. Adults generally preferred SFAs, and laid more eggs and had a longer life span when ingesting these substances as compared to UFAs. Our data suggest that insects can discriminate long-chain dietary FAs. The developmental change in preference shown by this species might reflect functional variation in use of FAs or stage-specific nutritional requirements, and may be fundamental for insect use of these major dietary components.
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