The phenotypic plasticity of traits, defined as the ability of a genotype to express different phenotypic values of the trait across a range of environments, can vary between habitats depending on levels of temporal and spatial heterogeneity. Other traits can be insensitive to environmental perturbations and show environmental canalization. We tested levels of phenotypic plasticity in diverse Drosophila serrata populations along a latitudinal cline ranging from a temperate, variable climate to a tropical, stable climate by measuring developmental rate and size-related traits at three temperatures (16°C, 22°C, and 28°C). We then compared the slopes of the thermal reaction norms among populations. The 16–22°C part of the reaction norms for developmental rate was flatter (more canalized) for the temperate populations than for the tropical populations. However, slopes for the reaction norms of the two morphological traits (wing size, wing:thorax ratio), were steeper (more plastic) in the temperate versus the tropical populations over the entire thermal range. The different latitudinal patterns in plasticity for developmental rate and the morphological traits may reflect contrasting selection pressures along the tropical-temperate thermal gradient.
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