Genetic and phenotypic variation in juvenile development in relation to temperature and developmental pathway in a geometrid moth


Sami M. Kivelä, Department of Biology, University of Oulu, PO Box 3000, 90014 University of Oulu, Finland.
Tel.: +358 (0)8 553 1213; fax: +358 8 553 1061;


Life histories show genetic population-level variation due to spatial variation in selection pressures. Phenotypic plasticity in life histories is also common, facilitating fine-tuning of the phenotype in relation to the prevailing selection regime. In multivoltine (≥ 2 generations per year) insects, individuals following alternative developmental pathways (diapause/direct development) experience different selection regimes. We studied the genetic and phenotypic components of juvenile development in Cabera exanthemata (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) in a factorial split-brood experiment. F2 offspring of individuals originating from populations in northern and central Finland were divided among manipulations defined by temperature (14 °C/20 °C) and day length (24 h/15 h). Short day length invariably induced diapause, whereas continuous light almost invariably induced direct development in both regions, although northern populations are strictly univoltine in the wild. Individuals from northern Finland had higher growth rates, shorter development times and higher pupal masses than individuals from central Finland across the conditions, indicating genetic differences between regions. Individuals that developed directly into adults tended to have higher growth rates, shorter development times and higher pupal masses than those entering diapause, indicating phenotypic plasticity. Temperature-induced plasticity was substantial; growth rate was much higher, development time much shorter and pupal mass higher at 20 °C than at 14 °C. The degree of plasticity in relation to developmental pathway was pronounced at 20 °C in growth rate and development time and at 14 °C in pupal mass, emphasizing multidimensionality of reaction norms. The observed genetic variation and developmental plasticity seem adaptive in relation to time-stress due to seasonality.