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Contrasting Manual and Automated Assessment of Thermal Stress Responses and Larval Body Size in Black Soldier Flies and Houseflies

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Within ecophysiological and genetic studies on insects, morphological and physiological traits are commonly assessed and phenotypes are typically obtained from manual measurements on numerous individuals. Manual observations are, however, time consuming, can introduce observer bias and are prone to human error. Here, we contrast results obtained from manual assessment of larval size and thermal tolerance traits in black soldier flies (Hermetia illucens) and houseflies (Musca domestica) that have been acclimated under three different temperature regimes with those obtained automatically using an image analysis software (Noldus EthoVision XT). We found that (i) larval size estimates of both species, obtained by manual weighing or by using the software, were highly correlated, (ii) measures of heat and cold tolerance using manual and automated approaches provided qualitatively similar results, and (iii) by using the software we obtained quantifiable information on stress responses and acclimation effects of potentially higher ecological relevance than the endpoint traits that are typically assessed when manual assessments are used. Based on these findings, we argue that automated assessment of insect stress responses and largescale phenotyping of morphological traits such as size will provide new opportunities within many disciplines where accurate and largescale phenotyping of insects is required.

Original languageEnglish
Article number380
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

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