Evolved variation in cold tolerance among populations of Eldana saccharina (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) in South Africa

E. Kleynhans, K. A. Mitchell, D. E. Conlong, J. S. Terblanche

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Among-population variation in chill-coma onset temperature (CTmin) is thought to reflect natural selection for local microclimatic conditions. However, few studies have investigated the evolutionary importance of cold tolerance limits in natural populations. Here, using a common-environment approach, we show pronounced variation in CTmin (± 4 °C) across the geographic range of a nonoverwintering crop pest, Eldana saccharina. The outcomes of this study provide two notable results in the context of evolved chill-coma variation: (1) CTmin differs significantly between geographic lines and is significantly positively correlated with local climates, and (2) there is a stable genetic architecture underlying CTmin trait variation, likely representing four key genes. Crosses between the most and least cold-tolerant geographic lines confirmed a genetic component to CTmin trait variation. Slower developmental time in the most cold-tolerant population suggests that local adaptation involves fitness costs; however, it confers fitness benefits in that environment. A significant reduction in phenotypic plasticity in the laboratory population suggests that plasticity of this trait is costly to maintain but also likely necessary for field survival. These results are significant for understanding field population adaption to novel environments, whereas further work is needed to dissect the underlying mechanism and gene(s) responsible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1149-1159
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • field fitness
  • invasion potential
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • population dynamics
  • stem borer
  • thermal acclimation
  • Invasion potential
  • Field fitness
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Population dynamics
  • Thermal acclimation
  • Stem borer


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