Populations of organisms separated by latitude provide striking examples of local adaptation, by virtue of ecological gradients that correlate with latitudinal position on the globe. Ambient temperature forms one key ecological variable that varies with latitude, and here we investigate its effects on the fecundity of self-fertilizing nematodes of the species Caenorhabditis briggsae that exhibits strong genetically based differentiation in association with latitude. We find that isogenic strains from a Tropical phylogeographic clade have greater lifetime fecundity when reared at extreme high temperatures and lower lifetime fecundity at extreme low temperatures than do strains from a Temperate phylogeographic clade, consistent with adaptation to local temperature regimes. Further, we determine experimentally that the mechanism underlying reduced fecundity at extreme temperatures differs for low versus high temperature extremes, but that the total number of sperm produced by the gonad is unaffected by rearing temperature. Low rearing temperatures result in facultatively reduced oocyte production by hermaphrodites, whereas extreme high temperatures experienced during development induce permanent defects in sperm fertility. Available and emerging genetic tools for this organism will permit the characterization of the evolutionary genetic basis to this putative example of adaptation in latitudinally separated populations.
© 2010 The Author(s). Evolution© 2010 The Society for the Study of Evolution.