Evolutionary consequences of thermally varying environments were studied in the ciliated protozoan Tetrahymena thermophila. Replicated lines were propagated for 60 days, a maximum of 500 generations, in stable, slowly fluctuating (red spectrum), and rapidly fluctuating (blue spectrum) temperatures. The red and blue fluctuations had a dominant period length of 15 days and two hours, respectively. The mean temperature of all time series was 25°C and the fluctuating temperatures had the same minimum (10°C), maximum (40°C), and variance. During the experiment, population sizes and biomasses were monitored at three-day intervals. After the experiment, carrying capacity and maximum growth rate were measured at low (15°C), intermediate (25°C), and high (35°C) temperatures for each experimental line. Physiological changes in the lines were assessed by measuring the expression of stress-induced heat shock protein Hsp90 at 25°C, 35°C, and 39°C. Population sizes and biomasses showed no differences between stable, blue, or red temperature treatments during the experiment. Also, after the experiment, mean carrying capacities and maximum growth rates were comparable in the stable, blue, and red temperature treatments. The expression of Hsp90 was higher in lines from the blue environment than in lines from the stable environment. Lines from the red environment had an intermediate level of Hsp90 expression. This supports the hypothesis that inducible thermotolerance and expression of canalizing genes can evolve in response to rapidly varying environments. Furthermore, we found correlative evidence of benefits and disadvantages of high Hsp90 expression. Lines with high expression of Hsp90 had an increased growth rate at the highest temperature when food resources were not limiting growth. At low and intermediate temperatures the same lines had the lowest carrying capacities.
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Vol. 58 • No. 4