Thermal resistance and performance correlate with climate in populations of a widespread mosquito.

Physiological and biochemical zoology : PBZ

PubMedID: 23303322

Vorhees AS, Gray EM, Bradley TJ. Thermal resistance and performance correlate with climate in populations of a widespread mosquito. Physiol Biochem Zool. 2013;86(1):73-81.
The abundance and success of widely distributed species across variable environments make them suitable models for exploring which traits will be important for resilience to climate change. Using a widespread mosquito species, Culex tarsalis, we have investigated population-level variation in the critical thermal maximum (CT(max)) and the metabolic response to temperature (MR-T). Adult female C. tarsalis were sampled from three sites representing thermally distinct habitats in California, and flow-through respirometry was used to determine CT(max) and MR-T relationships. CT(max) differed significantly among the three populations and correlated positively with maximum temperatures at each site but not with mean temperatures. Culex tarsalis from our cool-temperature, high-altitude site had significantly higher metabolic rates at each test temperature compared with the two populations from warmer sites, consistent with previous examples of thermal compensation in ectothermic animals inhabiting cold climates. The MR-T slope was steepest in mosquitoes inhabiting the site with the lowest temperature variability, while shallower slopes were exhibited by mosquitoes from the two sites with higher thermal variability. Our results show the extent to which local populations may differentiate within their respective environments and suggest that plasticity in thermal tolerance traits may play a role in mediating resilience to climate change. Furthermore, our study highlights the importance of thermal variability and extremes rather than average temperatures for the evolution of thermal traits.