Latitudinal shift in thermal niche breadth results from thermal release during a climate-mediated range expansion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


AimClimate change is currently altering the geographical distribution of species, but how this process contributes to biogeographical variation in ecological traits is unknown. Range-shifting species are predicted to encounter and respond to new selective regimes during their expansion phase, but also carry historical adaptations to their ancestral range. We sought to identify how historical and novel components of the environment interact to shape latitudinal trends in thermal tolerance, thermal tolerance breadth and phenotypic plasticity of a range-shifting species. LocationSouthern and central Sweden. MethodsTo evaluate phenotypic responses to changes in the thermal selective environment, we experimentally determined the upper and lower thermal tolerances of >2000 wild-caught damselflies (Ischnura elegans) from populations distributed across core and expanding range-edge regions. We then identified changing correlations between thermal tolerance, climate and recent weather events across the range expansion. Niche modelling was employed to evaluate the relative contributions of varying climatic selective regimes to overall habitat suitability for the species in core versus range-edge regions. ResultsUpper thermal tolerance exhibited local adaptation to climate in the core region, but showed evidence of having been released from thermal selection during the current range expansion. In contrast, chill coma recovery exhibited local adaptation across the core region and range expansion, corresponding to increased climatic variability at higher latitudes. Adaptive plasticity of lower thermal tolerances (acclimation ability) increased towards the northern, expanding range edge. Main conclusionsOur results suggest micro-evolutionary mechanisms for several large-scale and general biogeographical patterns, including spatially and latitudinally invariant heat tolerances (Brett's rule) and increased thermal acclimation rates and niche breadths at higher latitudes. Population-level processes unique to climate-mediated range expansions may commonly underpin many broader, macro-physiological trends.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Ecology


  • Character release, colonization and range shifts, habitat suitability, insect invasions, macroecology, Ischnura elegans, Maxent, species, distribution model, Sweden, thermotolerance
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1953-1963
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch