Heat tolerance in Drosophila subobscura along a latitudinal gradient: Contrasting patterns between plastic and genetic responses

Evolution. 2015 Oct;69(10):2721-34. doi: 10.1111/evo.12757. Epub 2015 Sep 16.


Susceptibility to global warming relies on how thermal tolerances respond to increasing temperatures through plasticity or evolution. Climatic adaptation can be assessed by examining the geographic variation in thermal-related traits. We studied latitudinal patterns in heat tolerance in Drosophila subobscura reared at two temperatures. We used four static stressful temperatures to estimate the thermal death time (TDT) curves, and two ramping assays with fast and slow heating rates. Thermal death time curves allow estimation of the critical thermal maximum (CT(max)), by extrapolating to the temperature that would knock down the flies almost "instantaneously," and the thermal sensitivity to increasing stressful temperatures. We found a positive latitudinal cline for CT(max), but no clinal pattern for knockdown temperatures estimated from the ramping assays. Although high-latitude populations were more tolerant to an acute heat stress, they were also more sensitive to prolonged exposure to less stressful temperatures, supporting a trade-off between acute and chronic heat tolerances. Conversely, developmental plasticity did not affect CT(max) but increased the tolerance to chronic heat exposition. The patterns observed from the TDT curves help to understand why the relationship between heat tolerance and latitude depends on the methodology used and, therefore, these curves provide a more complete and reliable measurement of heat tolerance.

Keywords: Clinal patterns; heat tolerance; plasticity; thermal death time curve; trade-offs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics
  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Animals
  • Chile
  • Climate
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila / growth & development
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Female
  • Geography*
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Male
  • Phenotype

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.93D6C