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Data from: Antagonistic responses of exposure to sublethal temperatures: adaptive phenotypic plasticity coincides with a reduction in organismal performance

Citation

Gilbert, Anthony; Miles, Donald B. (2019), Data from: Antagonistic responses of exposure to sublethal temperatures: adaptive phenotypic plasticity coincides with a reduction in organismal performance, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.3kr736p

Abstract

A fitness benefit of phenotypic plasticity is the ability of an organism to survive short-term, deleterious environmental fluctuations. Yet, the influence of selection on plasticity in modulating shifts in phenotypic traits remains unclear. Short-term phenotypic plasticity in thermal tolerance traits is attained by exposure to sublethal hot or cold temperatures (i.e. the hardening response). Heat hardening is expected to buffer organisms from the unpredictability of extreme thermal fluctuations in the environment so as to minimize interruptions in activity and enhance survival. However, exposure to sublethal temperatures might entail other phenotypic costs that constrain or inhibit the prolonged use of hardening responses across longer timescales. Here, we estimated the onset of the heat hardening response, physiological and behavioral shifts during heat hardening, and geographic variation in heat hardening using tree lizards (Urosaurus ornatus). Peak heat hardening occurred 6h after exposure to sublethal temperatures. We found that both preferred body temperatures and locomotor performance diminished following exposure to sublethal temperatures, and performance levels did not approach pre-exposure levels until after the peak hardening response. We also found support for intraspecific variation in the hardening response along an environmental gradient, where populations in more thermally variable environments exhibited stronger plastic responses and populations with higher baseline heat tolerances exhibited weaker plastic responses. Sublethal temperature exposure might induce plasticity in thermal tolerance, however we have characterized other phenotypic shifts that might curtail chronic reliance on plasticity in thermal traits as a mechanism of responding to changes in thermal environments induced by climate warming.

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