Multivariate analysis of adaptive capacity for upper thermal limits in Drosophila simulans


Correspondence: Carla M. Sgrò, School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Clayton 3800, Victoria, Australia.

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Thermal tolerance is an important factor influencing the distribution of ectotherms, but our understanding of the ability of species to evolve different thermal limits is limited. Based on univariate measures of adaptive capacity, it has recently been suggested that species may have limited evolutionary potential to extend their upper thermal limits under ramping temperature conditions that better reflect heat stress in nature. To test these findings more broadly, we used a paternal half-sibling breeding design to estimate the multivariate evolutionary potential for upper thermal limits in Drosophila simulans. We assessed heat tolerance using static (basal and hardened) and ramping assays. Our analyses revealed significant evolutionary potential for all three measures of heat tolerance. Additive genetic variances were significantly different from zero for all three traits. Our G matrix analysis revealed that all three traits would contribute to a response to selection for increased heat tolerance. Significant additive genetic covariances and additive genetic correlations between static basal and hardened heat-knockdown time, marginally nonsignificant between static basal and ramping heat-knockdown time, indicate that direct and correlated responses to selection for increased upper thermal limits are possible. Thus, combinations of all three traits will contribute to the evolution of upper thermal limits in response to selection imposed by a warming climate. Reliance on univariate estimates of evolutionary potential may not provide accurate insight into the ability of organisms to evolve upper thermal limits in nature.