Much of the work on the responses of terrestrial arthropods to high and low temperatures has been done on model organisms such as Drosophila. However, considerable variation in thermotolerance is partitioned at the family level and above, raising questions about the broader applicability of this work to other taxa. Here we investigate resistance to high and low temperatures, following different temperature treatments, in ten species and 31 populations of weevils found on sub-Antarctic Heard Island and Marion Island, which have substantially different climates. In these weevils there is considerable interspecific and among-population variation in critical thermal minimum (CTmin) and critical thermal maximum (CTmax), but most of this variation in critical limits can be ascribed to phenotypic plasticity. We find no relationship between CTmin and CTmax at the species level, and this is true also of populations and of responses to the temperature treatments. In general, plastic (acclimation) changes in CTmin are larger than those in CTmax. Our data therefore provide support for the idea that resistance to heat and to cold are decoupled in terrestrial arthropods. Furthermore, our results suggest that investigations of physiological limits to species borders should incorporate the effects of phenotypic plasticity on physiological capabilities. © 2003 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2003, 78, 401–414.