1. For modelling the future ecological responses to climate change, data on individual species and on variation within and between populations from different latitudes are required.
2. We examined life cycle regulation and growth responses to temperature in Mediterranean and temperate populations of a widespread European odonate, Orthetrum cancellatum. In an experiment, offspring from individual females from different parts of the range were kept separately to elucidate differences between families.
3. The experiment was run outdoors at 52°N at a natural photoperiod for almost a year. We used four temperature regimes, ambient (i.e. following local air temperature) and ambient temperature increased by 2, 4 and 6 °C, to mimic future temperature rise. A mathematical model was used to categorise the type of seasonal regulation and estimate parameters of the temperature response curve.
4. Growth rate varied significantly with temperature sum, survival and geographic origin, as well as with family. Offspring of all females from the temperate part of the range had a life cycle with a 12 h day-length threshold necessary to induce diapause (i.e. diapause was induced once day length fell below 12 h). By contrast, Mediterranean families had a 10 h threshold or had an unregulated life cycle allowing winter growth. The temperature response did not significantly differ between populations, but varied between families with a greater variation in the optimum temperature for growth in the Mediterranean population.
5. The variation in seasonal regulation leads to a diversity in voltinism patterns within species, ranging from bivoltine to semivoltine along a latitudinal gradient. Given that the type of seasonal regulation is genetically fixed, rising temperatures will not allow faster than univoltine development in temperate populations. We discuss the consequences of our results in the light of rising temperature in central Europe.