The process of adaptation of flour beetles to new environments

O. Bergerson*, D. Wool

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Five populations derived from a composite, genetically heterogeneous strain of the flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, were selected on new diets (dog food, powdered rice, brewers' yeast, wheat flour and oats) for 13-16 generations. A control population was reared on the standard medium (flour + 5% brewers' yeast). Adaptedness was measured in terms of (1) fitness parameters (survival and developmental time), (2) amylase activity levels (amylase is an essential digestive enzyme in flour beetles) and (3) food preference behavior. There were significant temporal trends in fitness components in the selected populations. Survival was initially low but increased with time. Developmental time decreased in later generations of selection. The control population showed the smallest increase in survival and no decrease in developmental time. When tested at the end of the experiment, survival to adulthood of eggs from each selected population on its selective diet was higher than that of control eggs. On the standard medium, no differences in survival among populations were detected. These results suggest that the improvement in fitness may indicate adaptation to the new environments created by the different food media. Amylase activity also increased temporally in 4 selected populations but not in the control (nor on unenriched wheat flour). Tests at the end of the experiment, however, suggest that this increase was, in large part, environmentally induced. We found no evidence that an adaptive genetic change in amylase regulation took place. There were no temporal trends in food-preference behavior during the selection process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-13
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1988


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