Life History Implications of Sex, Diet and Pathogen Exposure in the Fruit Fly

  • Colin Mcclure

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Understanding how organisms function is central to Biology. Assessing how animals respond to fluctuations in their environment and determining inter-individual variation in phenotypic plasticity is paramount to identifying the physiology of traits, the selective pressures which have shaped them, and how we can manipulate them to benefit human life. The over-arching goal of my thesis is to understand the effects of sex, diet and pathogen exposure on the physiology of the fruit fly to assess the versatility of their individual traits in response to these natural factors. Chapter 2 investigates how the sexes utilise nutrition towards their lifespan and reproduction, providing evidence that the reproduction of males and females requires different dietary components while lifespan does not. Chapter 3 reveals that the sexes also differ in how they utilise nutrients for pathogen resistance identifying that females are highly protein-limited and more susceptible to infection than males. Chapter 4 provides the first comprehensive study of how organisms alter their dietary intake in response to infection, finding that flies behaviourally ingest less and consume higher protein:carbohydrate ratio diets when exposed to live fungal spores. Chapter 5 explores the phenomenon of trait-enhnacing external stresses, a response often termed hormesis. This study reveals that the beneficial physiological response from inactive fungal spore exposure, a potential form of hormesis, incurs immune costs. The implications of my results to the field of physiology are discussed in Chapter 6 where I also highlight the limitations of my work and potential consequences for life history research. Overall it is determined that studies investigating the natural physiological response of organisms or potentially beneficial treatments for our own species, must consider sex-specific effects, physiological consequences in a variety of traits, and how organisms may utilise variation within their environment to alter their phenotypic condition.
Date of Award11 Nov 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SponsorsBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
SupervisorNicholas Priest (Supervisor)


  • life history
  • Evolution
  • Sex
  • nutrition
  • immune-responses
  • Hormesis
  • ageing
  • fecundity
  • diet
  • Drosophila melanogaster

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