Evolution in a constant environment: thermal fluctuations and thermal sensitivity of laboratory and field populations of Manduca sexta

Evolution. 2009 Feb;63(2):537-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2008.00568.x. Epub 2008 Dec 19.


Adaptation to temporal variation in environmental conditions is widespread. Whether evolution in a constant environment alters adaptation to temporal variation is relatively unexplored. We examine how constant and diurnally fluctuating temperature conditions affect life-history traits in two populations of the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta: a field population that routinely experiences fluctuating temperatures; and a laboratory population (derived from this field population in the 1960s) maintained at a constant temperature for more than 250 generations. Our experiments demonstrate that diurnal fluctuations significantly alter body size and development time in both populations, and confirm that these populations differ in their responses to a mean temperature. However, we found no evidence for population divergence in responses to diurnal temperature fluctuations. We suggest that mean and extreme temperatures may act as more potent selective forces on thermal reaction norms than temperature variation per se.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Manduca / genetics*
  • Temperature