Date of this Version
Although a considerable amount of information is available on the ecology and physiology of wing polymorphism, much less is known about the biochemical–genetic basis of morph specialization for dispersal versus reproduction. Previous studies have shown that the dispersing morph of the wing-polymorphic cricket, Gryllus firmus, prioritizes the accumulation of triglyceride flight fuel over ovarian growth, while the opposite occurs in the flightless morph during the first week of adulthood. In this study, we compared the in vivo rate of lipid oxidation between genetic stocks of flight-capable versus flightless morphs to determine the role of lipid catabolism in morph specialization for flight versus reproduction. During the first five days of adulthood, in the absence of flight, fatty acid oxidation was substantially lower in the dispersing morph relative to the flightless morph, when either radiolabeled acetate or palmitate was used as a substrate. Differences between the morphs in fatty acid oxidation were genetically based, occurred co-incident with morph-specific differences in triglyceride accumulation and ovarian growth, and were observed on a variety of diets. A genetically based trade-off in the relative conversion of palmitate into CO2 versus triglyceride was observed in morphs of G. firmus. Decreased oxidation of fatty acid and increased biosynthesis of triglyceride, both appear to play an important role in flight fuel accumulation, and hence morph specialization for flight. Conversely, increased oxidation of fatty acid likely fuels the enhanced ovarian growth in the flightless morph. The results of the present study on fatty acid catabolism, and previous studies on triglyceride and phospholipid biosynthesis, provide the first direct evidence that genetically based differences in in vivo flux through pathways of intermediary metabolism underlie a trade-off between flight capability and reproduction—a trade-off of central importance in insects.