Ectothermic organisms, such as insects and reptiles, rely on external heat sources to control body temperature and possess physiological and behavioral traits that are temperature dependent. It has therefore been hypothesised that differences in body temperature resulting from phenotypic properties, such as color pattern, may translate into selection against thermally inferior phenotypes. We tested for costs and benefits of pale versus dark coloration by comparing the behaviors (i.e., basking duration and bouts) of pygmy grasshopper (Tetrix undulata) individuals exposed to experimental situations imposing a trade-off between temperature regulation and feeding. We used pairs consisting of two full-siblings of the same sex that represented different (genetically coded) color morphs but had shared identical conditions from the time of fertilization. Our results revealed significant differences in behavioral thermoregulation between dark and pale individuals in females, but not in males. Pale females spent more time feeding than dark females, regardless of whether feeding was associated with a risk of either hypothermia or overheating. In contrast, only minor differences in behavior (if any) were evident between individuals that belonged to the same color morph but had been painted black or gray to increase and decrease their heating rates. This suggests that the behavioral differences between individuals belonging to different color morphs are genetically determined, rather than simply reflecting a response to different heating rates. To test for effects of acclimation on behaviors, we used pairs of individuals that had been reared from hatchlings to adults under controlled conditions in either low or high temperature. The thermal regime experienced during rearing had little effect on behaviors during the experiments reported above, but significantly influenced the body temperatures selected in a laboratory thermal gradient. In females (but not in males) preferred body temperature also varied among individuals born to mothers belonging to different color morphs, suggesting that a genetic correlation exists between color pattern and temperature preferences. Collectively, these findings, at least in females, are consistent with the hypothesis of multiple-trait coevolution and suggest that the different color morphs represent alternative evolutionary strategies.
Corresponding Editor: T. Mousseau