Authors: Belinda van Heerwaarden, Richard Foo Heng Lee, Johannes Overgaard and Carla M Sgrò
Published in: Journal of Evolutionary Biology, volume 27, issue 11 (November 2014)
Phenotypic plasticity may be an important initial mechanism to counter environmental change, yet we know relatively little about the evolution of plasticity in nature.
Species with widespread distributions are expected to have evolved higher levels of plasticity compared with those with more restricted, tropical distributions.
At the intraspecific level, temperate populations are expected to have evolved higher levels of plasticity than their tropical counterparts. However, empirical support for these expectations is limited. In addition, no studies have comprehensively examined the evolution of thermal plasticity across life stages.
Using populations of Drosophila simulans collected from a latitudinal cline spanning the entire east coast of Australia, we assessed thermal plasticity, measured as hardening capacity (the difference between basal and hardened thermal tolerance) for multiple measures of heat and cold tolerance across both adult and larval stages of development. This allowed us to explicitly ask whether the evolution of thermal plasticity is favoured in more variable, temperate environments.
We found no relationship between thermal plasticity and latitude, providing little support for the hypothesis that temperate populations have evolved higher levels of thermal plasticity than their tropical counterparts.
With the exception of adult heat survival, we also found no association between plas- ticity and ten climatic variables, indicating that the evolution of thermal plasticity is not easily predicted by the type of environment that a particular population occupies. We discuss these results in the context of the role of plasticity in a warming climate.
van Heerwaarden B, Lee RFH, Overgaard J, Sgrò CM (2014) No patterns in thermalplasticity along a latitudinal gradient in Drosophila simulans from eastern Australia. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 27:2541–2553 PDF DOI