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Variation in developmental temperature alters adulthood plasticity of thermal tolerance in Tigriopus californicus


In response to environmental change, organisms rely on both genetic adaptation and phenotypic plasticity to adjust key traits that are necessary for survival and reproduction. Given the accelerating rate of climate change, plasticity may be particularly important. For organisms in warming aquatic habitats, upper thermal tolerance is likely to be a key trait, and many organisms express plasticity in this trait in response to developmental or adulthood temperatures. Although plasticity at one life stage may influence plasticity at another life stage, relatively little is known about this possibility for thermal tolerance. Here, we used locally adapted populations of the copepod Tigriopus californicus to investigate these potential effects in an intertidal ectotherm. We found that low latitude populations had greater critical thermal maxima (CTmax) than high latitude populations, and variation in developmental temperature altered CTmax plasticity in adults. After development at 25°C, CTmax was plastic in adults, whereas no adulthood plasticity in this trait was observed after development at 20°C. This pattern was identical across four populations, suggesting that local thermal adaptation has not shaped this effect among these populations. Differences in the capacities to maintain ATP synthesis rates and to induce heat shock proteins at high temperatures, two likely mechanisms of local adaptation in this species, were consistent with changes in CTmax owing to phenotypic plasticity, which suggests that there is likely mechanistic overlap between the effects of plasticity and adaptation. Together, these results indicate that developmental effects may have substantial impacts on upper thermal tolerance plasticity in adult ectotherms.

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