Hotter is better and broader: thermal sensitivity of fitness in a population of bacteriophages

Am Nat. 2009 Apr;173(4):419-30. doi: 10.1086/597224.


Hotter is better is a hypothesis of thermal adaptation that posits that the rate-depressing effects of low temperature on biochemical reactions cannot be overcome by physiological plasticity or genetic adaptation. If so, then genotypes or populations adapted to warmer temperatures will have higher maximum growth rates than those adapted to low temperatures. Here we test hotter is better by measuring thermal reaction norms for intrinsic rate of population growth among an intraspecific collection of bacteriophages recently isolated from nature. Consistent with hotter is better, we find that phage genotypes with higher optimal temperatures have higher maximum growth rates. Unexpectedly, we also found that hotter is broader, meaning that the phages with the highest optimal temperatures also have the greatest temperature ranges. We found that the temperature sensitivity of fitness for phages is similar to that for insects.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / physiology*
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Genotype
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Microvirus / genetics
  • Microvirus / growth & development*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Phylogeny