We investigated the diversity and thermal response of a fitness related trait, juvenile growth rate, in seasonal population samples of Daphnia magna from two temperate ponds. Both populations were intermittent, i.e. they disappeared from the water body and recolonized seasonally by hatching from resting eggs in the sediment.
Temporally isolated clones of Daphniamagna showed the typical asymmetric response for growth rate with temperature and a sharp decline after the maximum response at 26°C (TMR). There was no evidence for genetically adapted seasonal groups. Despite significant genetic variation among clones and for phenotypic plasticity (G×E interactions without genetic correlations), seasonal groups of clones showed no shift in TMR and mean temperature reaction norms were similar among groups and both populations. Heritabilities remained similar among temperatures despite a large increase in genetic variance at stressfully high temperatures of 29°C and 32°C, due to simultaneous increase in environmental variance. Further, heritabilities remained high among sample periods and were not eroded during several months of asexual reproduction.
Regular diapause, an intrinsic feature of intermittent Daphnia populations, may replace the need for physiological temperature adaptation and promote maintenance of diversity through phenotypic similarity by reducing the time over which competitive interactions occur. Such populations are unlikely to be directly affected by elevated temperatures. They have a large potential for phenotypic plasticity as their TMR is higher than the temperature normally encountered.