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Prepupal Building Behavior in Drosophila melanogaster and Its Evolution under Resource and Time Constraints.
Structures built by animals are a widespread and ecologically important 'extended phenotype'. While its taxonomic diversity has been well described, factors affecting short-term evolution of building behavior within a species have received little experimental attention. Here we describe how, given the opportunity, wandering Drosophila melanogaster larvae often build long tunnels in agar substrates and embed their pupae within them. These embedded larvae are characterized by a longer egg-to-pupariation developmental time than larvae that pupate on the surface. Assuming that such building behaviors are likely to be energetically costly and/or time consuming, we hypothesized that they should evolve to be less pronounced under resource or time limitation. In accord with this prediction, larvae from populations evolved for 160 generations under a regime that combines larval malnutrition with limited developmental time dug shorter tunnels than larvae from control unselected populations. However, the proportion of larvae that embedded before pupation did not differ between the malnutrition-adapted and control populations, suggesting that tunnel length and likelihood of embedding before pupation are controlled by different genetic loci. The behaviors exhibited by wandering larvae of Drosophila melanogaster prior to pupation offer a model system to study evolution of animal building behaviors because the tunneling and embedding phenotypes are simple, facultative and highly variable.
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