Many organisms modify their physiological functions by acclimating to changes in their environment. Recent studies of thermal physiology have been influenced by verbal models that fail to consider the selective advantage of acclimation and thus make no predictions about variation in acclimation capacity. We used a quantitative model of optimal plasticity to generate predictions about the capacity of Drosophila melanogaster to acclimate to developmental temperature. This model predicts that the ability to acclimate thermal sensitivity should evolve when temperature varies greatly among generations. Based on the model, we expected that flies from the highly seasonal environment of New Jersey would acclimate thermal sensitivity more than would flies from the less seasonal environment of Florida. When raised at constant and fluctuating temperatures, flies from these populations failed to adjust their thermal optima in the way predicted by the model, suggesting that current assumptions about functional and genetic constraints should be reconsidered.
© 2010 The Authors. Journal Compilation © 2010 European Society For Evolutionary Biology.