Virtually all temperate insects survive the winter by entering a physiological state of reduced metabolic activity termed diapause. However, there is increasing evidence that climate change is disrupting the diapause response resulting in non-diapause life stages encountering periods of winter cold. This is a significant problem for adult life stages in particular, as they must remain mobile, periodically feed, and potentially initiate reproductive development at a time when resources should be diverted to enhance stress tolerance. Here we present the first evidence of protein/meat feeding restricting rapid cold hardening (RCH) ability and increasing low temperature activity thresholds. No RCH response was noted in adult female blow flies (Calliphora vicina Robineau-Desvoidy) fed a sugar, water and liver (SWL) diet, while a strong RCH response was seen in females fed a diet of sugar and water (SW) only. The RCH response in SW flies was induced at temperatures as high as 10°C, but was strongest following 3h at 0°C. The CTmin (loss of coordinated movement) and chill coma (final appendage twitch) temperature of SWL females (-0.3 ± 0.5°C and -4.9 ± 0.5°C, respectively) was significantly higher than for SW females (-3.2 ± 0.8°C and -8.5 ± 0.6°C). We confirmed this was not directly the result of altered extracellular K+, as activity thresholds of alanine-fed adults were not significantly different from SW flies. Instead we suggest the loss of cold tolerance is more likely the result of diverting resource allocation to egg development. Between 2009 and 2013 winter air temperatures in Birmingham, UK, fell below the CTmin of SW and SWL flies on 63 and 195 days, respectively, suggesting differential exposure to chill injury depending on whether adults had access to meat or not. We conclude that disruption of diapause could significantly impact on winter survival through loss of synchrony in the timing of active feeding and reproductive development with favourable temperature conditions.
- Drosophila melanogaster