Ontogenetic thermal tolerance and performance of ectotherms at variable temperatures

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Abstract

Early experience and environmental conditions during ontogeny may affect organismal structure, physiology and fitness. Here, we assessed the effect of developmental acclimation to environmental thermal variability on walking speed in Drosophila melanogaster adults. Our results showed a shift in the performance curve to the right. Thus, upper and lower thermal limits exhibited developmental plasticity. Additionally, in constant and variable climatic scenarios, flies shifted to the right the optimum temperature but the maximum performance decreased only in flies reared on high temperatures and high thermal variability. Overall, we showed that environmental cues during ontogeny might help to construct phenotypic variation, which supports the hypothesis of ontogenetic dependence of thermal tolerances.

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