In organisms with complex life cycles, the adaptive value of thermotolerance depends on life-history timing and seasonal temperature profiles. We illustrate this concept by examining variation in annual thermal environments and thermal acclimation among four geographic populations of the pitcher plant mosquito. Only diapausing larvae experience winter, whereas both postdiapause and nondiapause adults occur only during the growing season. Thus, adults experience transient cold stress primarily during the spring. We show that adult cold tolerance (chill coma recovery) is enhanced in spring-like conditions via thermal acclimation but is unaffected by diapause state. Moreover, adult mosquitoes from northern populations were more cold tolerant than those from southern populations largely because acclimation responses were steeper in the north. In contrast to cold tolerance, there was no significant acclimation of heat tolerance (heat knockdown), and no significant differences in heat tolerance between northern and southern populations. Field temperature data show that because of evolved differences in diapause timing, adult exposure to cold stress is remarkably consistent across geography. This suggests that geographic variation in cold tolerance may not be the result of direct selection on adults. Our results illustrate the importance of the interplay between phenological and thermal adaptation for understanding variation along climatic gradients.
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