Cold tolerance in flour beetle species differing in body size and selection temperature



Cold tolerance is an important trait directly related to survival and hence fitness. In the present study, the link is addressed between cold tolerance and body size, which is associated with many key fitness traits, at both the intra- and interspecific levels. Specifically, chill coma recovery time, as a metric of cold tolerance, is examined in five related flour beetle species (four of them belonging to the genus Tribolium), two additional Tribolium castaneum Herbst populations selected for higher temperatures, and a mutant showing reduced body size. Recovery times are negatively correlated with the species average body size but not within each species. Females usually recover faster than males, although this difference is significant in only a single species, and is unrelated to body size. Repeating the experimental procedure with the same individuals, after 2 days in isolation with a limited amount of food, results in longer recovery times. Therefore, even if cold acclimation takes place, its influence appears to be diminished by the deleterious effects associated with the experimental procedure. Hence, the findings provide evidence for an association between body size and cold tolerance in the genus Tribolium, with larger species recovering faster from chill than smaller species. By contrast, the smalleyed flour beetle Palorus ratzeburgii Wissmann does not follow this pattern. Additionally, a population of T. castaneum selected for the highest temperature takes longer to recover from chill coma, indicating a trade-off between cold and heat adaptations and not to a cross-protection effect, as sometimes demonstrated.