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Genotype‐environment interactions rule the response of a widespread butterfly to temperature variation

  • Abstract Understanding how organisms adapt to complex environments is a central goal of evolutionary biology and ecology. This issue is of special interest in the current era of rapidly changing climatic conditions. Here, we investigate clinal variation and plastic responses in life history, morphology and physiology in the butterfly Pieris napi along a pan‐European gradient by exposing butterflies raised in captivity to different temperatures. We found clinal variation in body size, growth rates and concomitant development time, wing aspect ratio, wing melanization and heat tolerance. Individuals from warmer environments were more heat‐tolerant and had less melanised wings and a shorter development, but still they were larger than individuals from cooler environments. These findings suggest selection for rapid growth in the warmth and for wing melanization in the cold, and thus fine‐tuned genetic adaptation to local climates. Irrespective of the origin of butterflies, the effects of higher developmental temperature were largely as expected, speeding up development; reducing body size, potential metabolic activity and wing melanization; while increasing heat tolerance. At least in part, these patterns likely reflect adaptive phenotypic plasticity. In summary, our study revealed pronounced plastic and genetic responses, which may indicate high adaptive capacities in our study organism. Whether this may help such species, though, to deal with current climate change needs further investigation, as clinal patterns have typically evolved over long periods.

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Author: Franziska Günter, Michaël Beaulieu, Kasimir F. Freiberg, Ines Welzel, Nia Toshkova, Anamarija Žagar, Tatjana Simčič, Klaus Fischer1
Parent Title (English):Journal of Evolutionary Biology
Document Type:Article
Date of first Publication:2020/07/06
Release Date:2020/12/08
Tag:climatic adaptation, cline, environmental gradient, genetic adaptation, local adaptation, thermal melanisation, thermoregulation
GND Keyword:-
First Page:920
Last Page:929
Faculties:Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät / Zoologisches Institut und Museum
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung