Journal of Genetics

, Volume 82, Issue 1–2, pp 45–76 | Cite as

What have two decades of laboratory life-history evolution studies onDrosophila melanogaster taught us?

Review Article


A series of laboratory selection experiments onDrosophila melanogaster over the past two decades has provided insights into the specifics of life-history tradeoffs in the species and greatly refined our understanding of how ecology and genetics interact in life-history evolution. Much of what has been learnt from these studies about the subtlety of the microevolutionary process also has significant implications for experimental design and inference in organismal biology beyond life-history evolution, as well as for studies of evolution in the wild. Here we review work on the ecology and evolution of life-histories in laboratory populations ofD. melanogaster, emphasizing how environmental effects on life-history-related traits can influence evolutionary change. We discuss life-history tradeoffs—many unexpected—revealed by selection experiments, and also highlight recent work that underscores the importance to life-history evolution of cross-generation and cross-life-stage effects and interactions, sexual antagonism and sexual dimorphism, population dynamics, and the possible role of biological clocks in timing life-history events. Finally, we discuss some of the limitations of typical selection experiments, and how these limitations might be transcended in the future by a combination of more elaborate and realistic selection experiments, developmental evolutionary biology, and the emerging discipline of phenomics.


laboratory selection experimental evolution lifespan development time competitive ability genetic architecture 


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Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Evolutionary Biology Laboratory, Evolutionary and Organismal Biology UnitJawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific ResearchBangaloreIndia

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