Geographic variation in thermal sensitivity of early life traits in a widespread reptile

Bodensteiner, Brooke
Warner, Daniel
Iverson, John
Milne-Zelman, Carrie
Mitchell, Timothy
Refsnider, Jeanine
Janzen, Fredric
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Taxa with large geographic distributions generally encompass diverse macroclimatic conditions, potentially requiring local adaptation and/or phenotypic plasticity to match their phenotypes to differing environments. These eco‐evolutionary processes are of particular interest in organisms with traits that are directly affected by temperature, such as embryonic development in oviparous ectotherms. Here we examine the spatial distribution of fitness‐related early life phenotypes across the range of a widespread vertebrate, the painted turtle (Chrysemys picta). We quantified embryonic and hatchling traits from seven locations (in Idaho, Minnesota, Oregon, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, and New Mexico) after incubating eggs under constant conditions across a series of environmentally relevant temperatures. Thermal reaction norms for incubation duration and hatchling mass varied among locations under this common‐garden experiment, indicating genetic differentiation or pre‐ovulatory maternal effects. However, latitude, a commonly used proxy for geographic variation, was not a strong predictor of these geographic differences. Our findings suggest that this macroclimatic proxy may be an unreliable surrogate for microclimatic conditions experienced locally in nests. Instead, complex interactions between abiotic and biotic factors likely drive among‐population phenotypic variation in this system. Understanding spatial variation in key life‐history traits provides an important perspective on adaptation to contemporary and future climatic conditions.


This article is published as Bodensteiner, Brooke L., Daniel A. Warner, John B. Iverson, Carrie L. Milne‐Zelman, Timothy S. Mitchell, Jeanine M. Refsnider, and Fredric J. Janzen. "Geographic variation in thermal sensitivity of early life traits in a widespread reptile." Ecology and Evolution (2019). doi: 10.1002/ece3.4956.

Chrysemys picta, geographic variation, local adaptation, painted turtle