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Thermal boldness: Volunteer exploration of extreme temperatures in fruit flies

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  • Carlos A. Navas, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Aarhus University
  • ,
  • Gustavo A. Agudelo-Cantero, Universidade de Sao Paulo
  • ,
  • Volker Loeschcke

A dominant perception is that small and motile ectothermic animals must use behavior to avoid exposure to critical or sub-critical temperatures impairing physiological performance. Concomitantly, volunteer exploration of extreme environments by some individuals may promote physiological adjustments and enhance ecological opportunity. Here we introduce to the literature a Thermal Decision System (TDS) which is fully modular, thermally stable, versatile, and adaptable to study navigation through thermal landscapes in insects and other small motile animals. We used a specific setting of the TDS to investigate volunteer navigation through critical cold and hot temperatures in Drosophila melanogaster. We demonstrate that a thermally bold behavior (volunteer crossings through a Critical Temperature Zone, CTZ) characterized a fraction of flies in a sample, and that such a fraction was higher in an outbred population relative to isofemale lines. As set, the TDS generated a thermal gradient within the cold and hot CTZs, and the exploration of this gradient by flies did not relate simply with a tendency to be thermally bold. Mild fasting affected thermal exploration and boldness in complex manners, but thermal boldness was evident in both fasted and fed flies. Also, thermal boldness was not associated with individual critical temperatures. Finally, some flies showed consistent thermal boldness, as flies that performed an extreme thermal cross were more likely to perform a second cross compared with untested flies. We hypothesize that a simple “avoidance principle” is not the only behavioral drive for D. melanogaster facing extreme temperatures over space, and that this pattern may characterize other small motile ectothermic animals with analogous natural history. The physiological correlates, genetic architecture, and interspecific variation of thermal boldness deserve further consideration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104330
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

    Research areas

  • Behavior, Critical Temperatures, Drosophila, Orientation, Thermal Biology

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