RESEARCH OBJECTIVES: This project has the general goal of characterizing the evolutionary change in life-history traits, aging, fecundity, mortality patterns and other biological markers during adaptation to a novel diet, and the consequences of such adaptation when returning to the diet in which populations of Drosophila melanogaster have been reared for almost 1000 generations in the Rose Laboratory. It will also be important to characterize the change in life-history traits when populations are once again exposed to a diet that they were adapted to for over 10,000 generations before laboratory domestication. Assays testing the above life-history traits will be carefully completed with high replication, in populations with large effective population sizes that characteristically have abundant genome-wide variation. Further research will be completed to study stress resistance, heart function, morphology, and other related markers in adapted and un-adapted populations in the lab.
PROJECT SIGNIFICANCE: Human life-history is similar to that of Drosophila melanogaster in adulthood. Like flies, we have an aging period that is followed by a late-life period in which aging is slowed or stopped. In humans, the transition from aging to late life happens at extremely late adult ages (estimates range from 90- 100 years). Furthermore, late life occurs when mortality rates are already very high. The question of whether or not the plateau can be achieved at lower mortality rates will be studied in the Rose Lab. By using Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism, we can test the effect of adaptation to a novel diet on the plateau timing and level. Although our results will not translate directly for any human application, if it turns out that we can alter the late-life plateau pattern in a living organism (the fruit fly), that opens new doors for research on how our own diet influences our mortality patterns. In Drosophila experiments, the pattern of aging depends on environment, such as food, and on lifestyle, such as sex life, including choice of mate.
Lead graduate student on aging: Grant Rutledge