Plasticity in behavioural responses and resistance to temperature stress in Musca domestica

Anders Kjaersgaard, Wolf U. Blackenhorn, Cino Pertoldi, Volker Loeschcke, Christian kaufmann, Birthe Hald, Nonito Pages, Simon Bahrndorff

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Organisms can respond to and cope with stressful environments in a number of ways including behavioural, morphological and physiological adjustments. To understand the role of behavioural traits in thermal adaptations we compared heat resistance, locomotor (walking and flying) activity, flight performance and morphology of three European populations of Musca domestica (Diptera: Muscidae) originating from different thermal conditions (Spain, Switzerland and Denmark) at benign and stressful high temperatures. Spanish flies showed greater heat resistance than Swiss and Danish flies. Similarly, at the stressful high temperature Spanish flies flew the furthest and Danish flies the shortest distance. Neither body size nor wing loading affected flight performance, although flies with narrower wings tended to fly further (wing shape effect). Swiss flies were most active in terms of locomotor activity at the benign temperature, whereas the Spanish flies were able to stay active for longer at the stressful temperature. Population differences in behavioural traits and heat resistance were obtained using flies held for several generations in a laboratory common garden setting; therefore we suggest that exposure to and avoidance of high temperatures under natural conditions has been an important selective agent causing the suggested adaptive differentiation between the populations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Pages (from-to)123-130
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Flight
  • Heat resistance
  • Insects
  • Locomotor activity
  • Morphology
  • Termal adaptation


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