Cold-seeking behaviour mitigates reproductive losses from fungal infection in Drosophila

Victoria Hunt, Weihao Zhong, Colin Mcclure, David Mlynski, Elizabeth Duxbury, A Charnley, Nicholas Priest

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24 Citations (SciVal)
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1.Animals must tailor their life history strategies to suit the prevailing conditions and respond to hazards in the environment. Animals with lethal infections are faced with a difficult choice: to allocate more resources to reproduction and suffer higher mortality or to reduce reproduction with the expectation of enhanced immunity and late-age reproduction. But, how they do this is largely unknown. 2.Here, we have investigated the temperature preference of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, during infection with the fungal pathogen, Metarhizium robertsii, and the consequences of temperature preference on life history traits. We have used multiple measurements to assess the fitness consequences of temperature including age-specific changes in mortality rate and reproduction, providing more sensitive measures of accounting for variation in fitness with age. 3.We report that D. melanogaster optimizes its life history by exploiting thermal variation. Fungus-infected fruit flies seek out cooler temperatures, which immediately reduces their fecundity but, ultimately, increases their lifetime reproductive success. Colder temperatures reduced fungal growth rates both in vivo and in vitro, indicating that cooler temperatures increased resistance to the infection. 4.By comparing life history responses in infected and control animals, we found that cold seeking in infected animals facilitates a trade off between early- and late-age reproduction, but does not otherwise provide life history benefits that are specific to infected animals. These results indicate that cold-seeking is a mechanism for reducing the reproductive costs of infection. In contrast, uninfected control flies prefer warmer temperatures that optimise reproductive success via a rapid propagation strategy. 5.These findings help explain how life history trade-offs are mediated and how animals cope with infection, which will be increasingly important given the recent emergence of fungal pathogens and global climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-186
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number1
Early online date1 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2015


  • behavioural anapyrexia
  • behavioural fever
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • fecundity
  • life history traits
  • Metarhizium robertsii
  • temperature preference


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