Coping with Thermal Challenges: Reaction Norms of Life History Traits of a Burying Beetles with Biparental Care
To succeed and thrive in different environments, individuals can express plastic phenotypes, including life history traits, to ensure some level of fitness across conditions. As such, the plasticity of traits is central to understanding how individuals cope with the challenges associated with variable environmental conditions. Previous work has described how several traits relevant to fitness respond to different temperatures, but much of this work has focused on only one or a few traits and overlooked interactions between traits. Few have considered the effects of temperature on parental care – a highly flexible trait that can have important effects on fitness and might buffer offspring from environmental challenges. Here, we investigated the plasticity of life history traits, including parental care, in the burying beetle Nicrophorus orbicollis, which exbibits biparental care. We took an integrative approach to study how organisms cope with temperature variation. We conducted a captive experiment to characterize the family-level reaction norms of several life history traits across temperatures. We found that life history traits showed varying levels of plasticity, and some traits exhibited family-level variation in reaction norms, which might reflect underlying heritable variation in plasticity. We also found that parental care buffered some but not all effects of temperature on fitness in N. orbicollis. Contrary to expectations, offspring size did not change across temperatures. Our findings suggest that N. orbicollis cope with challenging warmer temperatures by reducing brood size to provide higher levels of care per larva such that offspring eclose at a similar size regardless of temperature. Taken together, our results show that life history responses to different temperatures reflect the incorporation of several reaction norms, which vary among families and have important fitness consequences.
URI for this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/1974/25937
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