Stress resistance traits in Drosophila often show clinal variation. Although these patterns suggest selection, there is generally no attempt to test how large differences at the geographical level are relative to levels of variation within and between local populations. Here we compare these levels in D. melanogaster from temperate Tasmania versus tropical northern Queensland by focusing on adult resistance to desiccation, cold and starvation stress, as well as associated traits (size, lipid content). For starvation and desiccation resistance, levels of variation were highest among strains from the same population, whereas there was little differentiation among local populations and a low level of differentiation at the geographic level. For adult cold resistance, there was local differentiation and strain variation but no geographic variation. For size (thorax length), geographic differentiation was higher despite some overlap among strains from the tropical and temperate locations. Finally, for lipid levels there was only evidence for variation among strains. The low level of differentiation among geographic locations for stress resistance was further verified with the characterization of isofemale strains from 18 locations along a coastal transect extending from Tasmania to northern Queensland. Crosses among some of the isofemale strains showed that results were not confounded by inbreeding effects. Strains derived from a cross between a tropical and temperate strain differed for all traits, and variation among strains for body size was higher than strain variation within the geographic regions. Unlike in previous studies, lipid content and starvation resistance were not correlated in any set of strains, but there was a correlation between cold resistance and lipid content. There was also a correlation between desiccation resistance and size but only in the geographic cross strains. These findings suggest a large amount of variation in stress resistance at the population level and inconsistent correlation patterns across experimental approaches.
Corresponding Editor: W. T. Starmer