Seasonal time constraints reduce genetic variation in life-history traits along a latitudinal gradient

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Summary1. Time constraints cause strong selection on life-history traits, because populations need to complete their life cycles within a shorter time. We therefore expect lower genetic variation in these traits in high- than in low-latitude populations, since the former are more time-constrained.2. The aim was to estimate life-history traits and their genetic variation in an obligately univoltine damselfly along a latitudinal gradient of 2730 km.3. Populations were grown in the laboratory at temperatures and photoperiods simulating those at their place of origin. In a complementary experiment, individuals from the same families were grown in constant temperature and photoperiod that mimicked average conditions across the latitude.4. Development time and size was faster and smaller, respectively, and growth rate was higher at northern latitudes. Additive genetic variance was very low for life-history traits, and estimates for egg development time and larval growth rate showed significant decreases towards northern latitudes. The expression of genetic effects in life-history traits differed considerably when individuals were grown in constant rather than simulated and naturally variable conditions.5. Our results support strong selection by time constraints. They also highlight the importance of growing organisms in their native environment for correct estimates of genetic variance at their place of origin. Our results also suggest that the evolutionary potential of life-history traits is very low at northern compared to southern latitudes, but that changes in climate could alter this pattern.Unlike in most other studies on geographic variation in life history traits, this study shows that genetic variance, and hence evolutionary potential of life history traits systematically decreases as a consequence of selective pressures imposed by seasonal time constraints along a latitudinal gradient.

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