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Title: Integrating patterns of thermal tolerance and phenotypic plasticity with population genetics to improve understanding of vulnerability to warming in a widespread copepod

Differences in population vulnerability to warming are defined by spatial patterns in thermal adaptation. These patterns may be driven by natural selection over spatial environmental gradients, but can also be shaped by gene flow, especially in marine taxa with high dispersal potential. Understanding and predicting organismal responses to warming requires disentangling the opposing effects of selection and gene flow. We begin by documenting genetic divergence of thermal tolerance and developmental phenotypic plasticity. Ten populations of the widespread copepodAcartia tonsawere collected from sites across a large thermal gradient, ranging from the Florida Keys to Northern New Brunswick, Canada (spanning over 20° latitude). Thermal performance curves (TPCs) from common garden experiments revealed local adaptation at the sampling range extremes, with thermal tolerance increasing at low latitudes and decreasing at high latitudes. The opposite pattern was observed in phenotypic plasticity, which was strongest at high latitudes. No relationship was observed between phenotypic plasticity and environmental variables. Instead, the results are consistent with the hypothesis of a trade‐off between thermal tolerance and the strength of phenotypic plasticity. Over a large portion of the sampled range, however, we observed a remarkable lack of differentiation of TPCs. To examine whether this lack of divergence is the result of selection for a generalist performance curve or constraint by gene flow, we analyzed cytochrome oxidase I mtDNA sequences, which revealed four distinct genetic clades, abundant genetic diversity, and widely distributed haplotypes. Strong divergence in thermal performance within genetic clades, however, suggests that the pace of thermal adaptation can be relatively rapid. The combined insight from the laboratory physiological experiments and genetic data indicate that gene flow constrains differentiation of TPCs. This balance between gene flow and selection has implications for patterns of vulnerability to warming. Taking both genetic differentiation and phenotypic plasticity into account, our results suggest that local adaptation does not increase vulnerability to warming, and that low‐latitude populations in general may be more vulnerable to predicted temperature change over the next century.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
Publisher / Repository:
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Global Change Biology
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 4147-4164
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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