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The Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni) is a generalist pest that poses a significant threat to the Australian horticultural industry. This species has become broadly established across latitudes that encompass tropical to temperate climates, and hence populations occupy diverse thermal niches. Successful expansion across this range may have been brokered by evolutionarily labile features of breeding phenology, physiology and/or behaviour. We explored the potential role of behavioural flexibility by characterizing variation in adult thermal preference using a novel gradient apparatus. Flies oriented within this apparatus essentially at random in the absence of thermal variation, but sought and maintained precise positions when presented with an established gradient. Male and female flies from an ‘old’ colony (>300 generations) and a ‘young’ (F7) colony were compared. Whereas we found no difference between the sexes, flies from the young colony preferred higher temperatures (30.93 ± 7.30 °C) and had greater individual variation than their counterparts from the old colony (28.16 ± 5.63 °C). Given that B. tryoni are routinely maintained at 25 °C in the laboratory, a lower mean preference of the old colony is consistent with thermal adaptation. This is further supported by their reduced phenotypic variance, which follows as a logical consequence of stabilising selection given long-term environmental constancy. These results demonstrate that B. tryoni seek to thermoregulate via adult behaviour, and that individual temperature preference can be precisely measured using a gradient apparatus. The evidence for adaptive tuning of this behaviour has importance for both the design of captive rearing protocols as well as the prediction of invasive potential and species biogeography under future climatic variation.
- thermal preference