Insects in fluctuating thermal environments

Annu Rev Entomol. 2015 Jan 7;60:123-40. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-010814-021017. Epub 2014 Oct 8.


All climate change scenarios predict an increase in both global temperature means and the magnitude of seasonal and diel temperature variation. The nonlinear relationship between temperature and biological processes means that fluctuating temperatures lead to physiological, life history, and ecological consequences for ectothermic insects that diverge from those predicted from constant temperatures. Fluctuating temperatures that remain within permissive temperature ranges generally improve performance. By contrast, those which extend to stressful temperatures may have either positive impacts, allowing repair of damage accrued during exposure to thermal extremes, or negative impacts from cumulative damage during successive exposures. We discuss the mechanisms underlying these differing effects. Fluctuating temperatures could be used to enhance or weaken insects in applied rearing programs, and any prediction of insect performance in the field-including models of climate change or population performance-must account for the effect of fluctuating temperatures.

Keywords: Jensen's inequality; climate change; life history traits; temperature variations; thermal tolerance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Climate Change*
  • Environment*
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Temperature