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Adaptive thermal plasticity enhances sperm and egg performance in a model insect

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Abstract

Rising and more variable global temperatures pose a challenge for biodiversity, with reproduction and fertility being especially sensitive to heat. Here, we assessed the potential for thermal adaptation in sperm and egg function using Tribolium flour beetles, a warm-temperate-tropical insect model. Following temperature increases through adult development, we found opposing gamete responses, with males producing shorter sperm and females laying larger eggs. Importantly, this gamete phenotypic plasticity was adaptive: thermal translocation experiments showed that both sperm and eggs produced in warmer conditions had superior reproductive performance in warmer environments, and vice versa for cooler production conditions and reproductive environments. In warmer environments, gamete plasticity enabled males to double their reproductive success, and females could increase offspring production by one-third. Our results reveal exciting potential for sensitive but vital traits within reproduction to handle increasing and more variable thermal regimes in the natural environment.

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Original languageEnglish
Article numbere49452
JournaleLife
Volume8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019
Peer-reviewedYes

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  • Adaptive Gametic Plasticity, Tribolium, Temperature, Global climate change

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