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Flexible responses of insects to changing environmental temperature – early season development of Craspedolepta species on fireweed


Ian D. Hodkinson, tel. +151 231 2030, fax +151 207 3224, e-mail:


Developmental response to temperature during the critical early season growing period was investigated in two congeneric species of Craspedolepta feeding on Epilobium angustifolium at three sites at different altitudes in Norway and the UK. The larval development reaction norm to temperature, measured as accumulated day degrees, was not significantly different between Craspedolepta nebulosa and Craspedolepta subpunctata at sites where they co-occurred but C. nebulosa development was consistently more advanced at any site. For individual species the reaction norms at the lowest site (Ainsdale, UK) were similar to the intermediate site (Geilo, Norway): and there were no differences between years. Insect size remained relatively constant. However, at the highest site (Haugastøl, Norway), where C. subpunctata is unable to complete its development, the reaction norm for C. nebulosa was significantly higher than at Geilo and the individual insects produced were smaller. These adaptations allow life-history completion under limiting temperature conditions. An experiment at Ainsdale, to raise the mean temperature by around 2.5°C during the early growing season, resulted in accelerated development in both C. nebulosa and C. subpunctata but development in C. nebulosa was accelerated proportionately more. C. nebulosa thus displays the greater plasticity in developmental response to environmental temperature that allows it to occupy a greater altitudinal and latitudinal range than C. subpunctata, in which the response is less plastic and more canalized. The likely individualistic responses of the two species to climate warming are considered.