The relationship between life span and adult body size is highly strain-specific in Drosophila melanogaster

Aziz A. Khazaeli, Wayne Van Voorhies, James W Curtsinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Among mammals, body size and life span tend to vary inversely within species, but the pattern is less clear in invertebrates. Here, we report on survival and weight of male flies from 29 laboratory strains of Drosophila melanogaster. Natural variation in body mass was enhanced by rearing larvae under normal and limited food conditions. Strain, weight, and larval treatment have significant effects on survival, but higher order interactions are also significant, indicating strain specificity. For pooled data the overall relationship between mass and life span is slight, positive, and statistically significant, but mass explains ≤1% of the variation in survival. This result is opposite to the common prediction of an inverse relationship between longevity and body size. Effects of artificially reduced body size vary substantially in both sign and magnitude from strain to strain, though long-lived strains generally retain their enhanced survival characteristics. Within-line regressions of life span on mass also vary dramatically from strain to strain; in Canton-S, the most extreme case, mass explains >40% of the variation in survival. For long-lived 'O' lines reared under normal larval conditions, smaller flies live 16% longer than larger flies; the latter are significantly underrepresented in the most advanced age class. We conclude that the body size-life span relationship is highly strain-specific; that inconsistencies in the literature probably reflect real biological variation; and that variation in body size can be a significant source of experimental noise in survival studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-385
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Gerontology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank S. Benzer, S. Helfand, L. Luckinbill, S. Nuzhdin, and M. Rose for providing fly stocks. We also thank K. Jacobson, N. Milanowski, and M. Scott for technical assistance, and Dr N.M. Tahoe for comments on the manuscript. Research is supported by grants AG 09711, AG 11722, and AG 11659 from the National Institute of Aging at the National Institute of Health.


  • Body size
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Extreme old age
  • Life history
  • Life span


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