Negligible senescence during reproductive dormancy in Drosophila melanogaster

M Tatar, S A Chien, Nicholas K Priest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Some endemic Drosophila overwinter in a state of adult reproductive diapause where egg maturation is arrested in previtellogenic stages. When maintained at cool temperatures, adult Drosophila melanogaster enter reproductive dormancy, that is, diapause or diapause-like quiescence. The ability to survive for extended periods is a typical feature of diapause syndromes. In adults this somatic persistence may involve reduced or slowed senescence. Here we assess whether reproductively dormant D. melanogaster age at slow rates. Adults were exposed to dormancy-inducing conditions for 3, 6, or 9 wk. After this period, demographic parameters were measured under normal conditions and compared to the demography of newly eclosed cohorts. The age-specific mortality rates of postdormancy adults were essentially identical to the mortality rates of newly eclosed, young flies. Postdormancy reproduction, in contrast, declined with the duration of the treatment; somatic survival during dormancy may tradeoff with later reproduction. Adults in reproductive dormancy were highly resistant to heat and to oxidative stress. Suppressed synthesis of juvenile hormone is known to regulate reproductive diapause of many insects. Treatment of dormant D. melanogaster with a juvenile hormone analog restored vitellogenesis, suppressed stress resistance, and increased demographic senescence. We conclude that D. melanogaster age at slow rates as part of their reproductive dormancy syndrome; the data do not agree with an alternative hypothesis based on heat-dependent "rate of living." We suggest that low temperature reduces neuroendocrine function, which in turn slows senescence as a function of altered stress response, nutrient reallocation, and metabolism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-258
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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