FEATURED PAPER: Impact of developmental temperatures on thermal plasticity and repeatability of metabolic rate

Impact of developmental temperatures on thermal plasticity and repeatability of metabolic rate

Original Paper | Open Access 

By Fonti Kar, Shinichi Nakagawa & Daniel W. A. Noble 

Evolutionary Ecology (2022)

Phenotypic plasticity is an important mechanism that allows populations to adjust to changing environments. Early life experiences can have lasting impacts on how individuals respond to environmental variation later in life (i.e., individual reaction norms), altering the capacity for populations to respond to selection. Here, we incubated lizard embryos (Lampropholis delicata) at two fluctuating developmental temperatures (cold = 23 ºC + / − 3 ºC, hot = 29 ºC + / − 3 ºC, ncold = 26, nhot = 25) to understand how it affected metabolic plasticity to temperature later in life. We repeatedly measured individual reaction norms across six temperatures 10 times over ~ 3.5 months (nobs = 3,818) to estimate the repeatability of average metabolic rate (intercept) and thermal plasticity (slope). The intercept and the slope of the population-level reaction norm was not affected by developmental temperature. Repeatability of average metabolic rate was, on average, 10% lower in hot incubated lizards but stable across all temperatures. The slope of the thermal reaction norm was overall moderately repeatable (R = 0.44, 95% CI = 0.035 – 0.93) suggesting that individual metabolic rate changed consistently with short-term changes in temperature, although credible intervals were quite broad. Importantly, reaction norm repeatability did not depend on early developmental temperature. Identifying factors affecting among-individual variation in thermal plasticity will be increasingly more important for terrestrial ectotherms living in changing climate. Our work implies that thermal metabolic plasticity is robust to early developmental temperatures and has the capacity to evolve, despite there being less consistent variation in metabolic rate under hot environments.