An Experimental Test of the Relationship between Genetic Variation and Environmental Variation in Tribolium Flour Beetles


The hypothesis that a component of genetic variation for polygenic fitness traits is maintained by environmental heterogeneity was tested using an experimental system involving two species of flour beetles, Tribolium castaneum and T. confusum. Replicated populations of each species from a number of environmental treatments were analyzed for various fitness components following almost 60 generations of natural selection. Environmental differences consisted of flours of cereals commonly invaded by natural populations of these insects.—Tests for adaptation to environments were based on experiments in which populations were reared factorially on each flour, such that population treatment x flour interactions could be detected. Measurements were made of survival, growth rate, larval weight, pupal weight, developmental time, fecundity of individuals at low density and fecundity and cannibalism at high density in both fresh and conditioned media.—Flour differences were found to have significant effects on most traits. Evidence for significant genetic variation and significant genotype x environment interaction was also found. However, no evidence could be found to support the hypothesis that genetic variation was maintained by environmental heterogeneity in food resources. The absence of adaptation to the experimental treatments despite the presence of genetic variation in fitness components suggests that pleiotropy may assume an important role in determining net fitness values of polygenes.

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