The major goal of evolutionary thermal biology is to understand how variation in temperature shapes phenotypic evolution. Comparing thermal reaction norms among populations from different thermal environments allows us to gain insights into the evolutionary mechanisms underlying thermal adaptation. Here, we have examined thermal adaptation in six wild populations of the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) from markedly different natural environments by analyzing thermal reaction norms for fecundity, thorax length, wing area, and ovariole number under ecologically realistic fluctuating temperature regimes in the laboratory. Contrary to expectation, we found only minor differences in the thermal optima for fecundity among populations. Differentiation among populations was mainly due to differences in absolute (and partly also relative) thermal fecundity performance. Despite significant variation among populations in the absolute values of morphological traits, we observed only minor differentiation in their reaction norms. Overall, the thermal reaction norms for all traits examined were remarkably similar among different populations. Our results therefore suggest that thermal adaptation in D. melanogaster predominantly involves evolutionary changes in absolute trait values rather than in aspects of thermal reaction norms.
Keywords: Fecundity; life history; phenotypic plasticity; temperature; thermal adaptation.
© 2013 The Author(s). Evolution © 2013 The Society for the Study of Evolution.