Contemporary climate change and terrestrial invertebrates: Evolutionary versus plastic changes Academic Article uri icon


  • To forecast the responses of species to future climate change, an understanding of the ability of species to adapt to long-term shifts in temperature is crucial. We present a review on evolutionary adaptation and phenotypic plasticity of temperature-related traits in terrestrial invertebrates. The evidence for adaptive evolution in melanization is good, but we caution that genetic determination needs to be tested in each individual species, and complex genetic correlations may exist. For phenological traits allochronic data sets provide powerful means to track climate-induced changes; however, rarely are responses deconstructed into evolutionary and plastic responses. Laboratory studies suggest climate change responses in these traits will be driven by both. For stress resistance, the evidence for shifts in traits is poor. Studies leaning heavily on Drosophila have demonstrated potential limits to evolutionary responses in desiccation and heat resistance. Quantifying the capacity for these species to respond plastically and extending this work to other taxa will be an important next step. We also note that, although not strictly speaking a species trait, the response of endosymbionts to heat stress requires further study. Finally, while clearly genetic, and possibly adaptive, the anonymous nature of latitudinal shifts in clines of genetic markers in Drosophila prevents further interpretation.

publication date

  • 2014