Studies on selection for faster development in Drosophila have typically focused on the trade-offs among development time, adult weight, and adult life span. Relatively less attention has been paid to the evolution of preadult life stages and behaviors in response to such selection. We have earlier reported that four laboratory populations of D. melanogaster selected for faster development and early reproduction, relative to control populations, showed considerably reduced preadult development time and survivorship, dry weight at eclosion, and larval growth rates. Here we study the larval phase of these populations in greater detail. We show here that the reduction in development time after about 50 generations of selection is due to reduced duration of the first and third larval instars and the pupal stage, whereas the duration of the second larval instar has not changed. About 90% of the preadult mortality in the selected populations is due to larval mortality. The third instar larvae, pupae, and freshly eclosed adults of the selected populations weigh significantly less than controls, and this difference appears during the third larval instar. Thereafter, percentage weight loss during the pupal stage does not differ between selected and control populations. The minimum amount of time a larva must feed to subsequently complete development is lower in the selected populations, which also exhibit a syndrome of reduced energy expenditure through reduction in larval feeding rate, larval digging and foraging activity, and pupation height. Comparison of these results with those observed earlier in populations selected for adaptation to larval crowding and faster development under a different protocol from ours reveal differences in the evolved traits that suggest that the responses to selection for faster development are greatly affected by the larval density at which selection acts and on details of the selection pressures acting on the timing of reproduction.
Corresponding Editor: C. López-Fanjul