Living in seasonally changing environments requires adaptation to seasonal cycles. Many insects use the change in day length as a reliable cue for upcoming winter and respond to shortened photoperiod through diapause. In this study, we report the clinal variation in photoperiodic diapause induction in populations of the parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis collected along a latitudinal gradient in Europe. In this species, diapause occurs in the larval stage and is maternally induced. Adult Nasonia females were exposed to different photoperiodic cycles and lifetime production of diapausing offspring was scored. Females switched to the production of diapausing offspring after exposure to a threshold number of photoperiodic cycles. A latitudinal cline was found in the proportion of diapausing offspring, the switch point for diapause induction measured as the maternal age at which the female starts to produce diapausing larvae, and the critical photoperiod for diapause induction. Populations at northern latitudes show an earlier switch point, higher proportions of diapausing individuals and longer critical photoperiods. Since the photoperiodic response was measured under the same laboratory conditions, the observed differences between populations most likely reflect genetic differences in sensitivity to photoperiodic cues, resulting from local adaptation to environmental cycles. The observed variability in diapause response combined with the availability of genomic tools for N. vitripennis represent a good opportunity to further investigate the genetic basis of this adaptive trait.
© 2013 The Authors. Journal of Evolutionary Biology © 2013 European Society For Evolutionary Biology.