Linking developmental diet to adult foraging choice in Drosophila melanogaster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Rather than maximizing intake of available macronutrients, insects increase intake of some nutrients and restrict intake of others. This selective consumption influences, and potentially optimizes, developmental time, reproduction and lifespan of the organism. Studies so far have focused on discriminating between protein and carbohydrate uptake and the consequences on fitness components at different life stages. However, it is largely unknown whether and how the developmental diets, which may entail habitat-specific nutrient restrictions, affect selective consumption in adults. We show that adult female D. melanogaster opt for the same protein to carbohydrate (P:C) ratio regardless of their developmental diet (P:C ratio of 1:1, 1:4 or 1:8). In contrast, males choose a diet that makes up for deficiencies; when protein is low during development, males increase protein consumption despite this being detrimental to starvation resistance. The sexual dimorphism in foraging choice could be due to the different energetic requirements of males and females. To investigate the effect of developmental diet on lifespan once an adult nutritional environment has been established, we also conducted a no-choice experiment. Here, adult lifespan increased as P:C ratio decreased, irrespective of developmental diet, thus demonstrating a cancelling out effect of the nutritional environment experienced during early life stages. Our study provides novel insights into how developmental diet is linked to adult diet by presenting evidence for sexual dimorphism in foraging choice as well as life-stage dependency of diet on lifespan.


  • Lucy Rebecca Davies
  • Mads F. Schou
  • Torsten N. Kristensen
  • Volker Loeschcke
External organisations
  • Aarhus University
  • Aalborg University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Zoology
  • Ecology


  • Developmental diet, Fitness, Lifespan, Nutritional choice, Protein to carbohydrate ratio, Sexual dimorphism, Starvation resistance
Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb175554
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2018 May 1
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes