• Acclimation;
  • field fitness;
  • invasiveness;
  • phenotypic plasticity;
  • population dynamics;
  • rapid cold hardening

1. The invasion success of Ceratitis capitata probably stems from physiological, morphological, and behavioural adaptations that enable them to survive in different habitats. However, it is generally poorly understood if variation in acute thermal tolerance and its phenotypic plasticity might be important in facilitating survival of C. capitata upon introduction to novel environments.

2. Here, by comparison of widely distributed C. capitata with a narrowly distributed congener, C. rosa, we show that both species have similar levels of survival to acute high and low temperature exposures under common rearing conditions. However, these species differ dramatically in the time-course of plastic responses to acute low temperature treatments.

3. The range of temperatures that induce rapid cold hardening (RCH) are similar for both species. However, C. capitata has two distinct advantages over C. rosa. First, at 5°C C. capitata develops RCH significantly faster than C. rosa. Second, C. capitata maintains a RCH response longer than C. rosa (8 vs. 0.5 h).

4. A simple population survival model, based on the estimated time-course of RCH responses determined for both species, was undertaken to simulate time to extinction for both species introduced into a similar thermally variable environment. The model showed that time to extinction is greater for C. capitata than for C. rosa, especially in habitats where temperatures frequently drop below 10°C.

5. Thus, variation in RCH responses may translate into significant variation in survival upon introduction to novel thermal habitats for C. capitata, particularly in cooler and more thermally variable geographic regions, and may contribute to their ongoing invasion success relative to other, more geographically constrained Ceratitis species.