The Retired Fly: Detecting Life History Transition in Individual Drosophila melanogaster Females

James W. Curtsinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Life history observations at the level of individual model organisms are relatively scarce, but highly informative. Here I analyze published data on the survival and lifetime fecundity of 3,971 individually housed, mated Drosophila melanogaster females from nine experimental populations. Data were collected from four laboratories and include counts of over 4.6 million eggs. Individual fecundity records are dominated by zero-egg-days (ZEDs). I show that the timing of ZEDs is informative about the survival and reproduction of individual flies. The first postmaturation ZED divides adult life into two functional stages: working and retired. The working stage is characterized by relatively high levels of oviposition and survival, while the retired stage is characterized by low levels of oviposition and reduced survival. The retired stage typically lasts one quarter of the total adult life span. The age of transition varies between flies; consequently age-synchronized cohorts will generally contain a mixture of working and retired flies, possibly influencing responses to experimental treatments. ZED can be used as a nonintrusive, real-time biomarker to distinguish live flies in the prime of life from those in a terminal state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1455-1460
Number of pages6
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

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© 2015 The Author.

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  • Journal Article


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