Flies developed smaller cells when temperature fluctuated more frequently

Marcin Czarnoleski, Dominika Dragosz-Kluska, Michael Angilletta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Changes in cell size might be an important component of adaptation to thermal heterogeneity. Although Drosophila melanogaster develops smaller cells at fluctuating temperatures, we do not know whether this response depends on the frequency or amplitude of thermal change. In a laboratory experiment, we exposed flies to either frequent or infrequent fluctuations between 17 and 27. °C, while controlling the total exposure to each temperature. Flies emerged from these treatments with similar body sizes, but flies at more frequent fluctuations emerged earlier and had smaller epidermal cells for a given body size. Tissue built from small cells has more nuclei for transcription, shorter distances between cell compartments, and a larger surface area for transport across membranes. Therefore, we hypothesize that physiological effects of small cells reduce lags in metabolic activity and enhance performance of flies during warming. For plasticity of cell size to confer a fitness advantage, this hypothetical benefit must outweigh the cost of maintaining a greater area of plasma membrane.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-110
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Thermal Biology
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Body size
  • Cell size
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Membranes
  • Metabolism
  • Oxygen diffusion
  • Plasticity
  • Thermal adaptation
  • Thermal fluctuations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Developmental Biology


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