Environmental and genetic control of cold tolerance in the Glanville fritillary butterfly

M. A. de Jong, M. Saastamoinen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
253 Downloads (Pure)


Thermal tolerance has a major effect on individual fitness and species distributions and can be determined by genetic variation and phenotypic plasticity. We investigate the effects of developmental and adult thermal conditions on cold tolerance, measured as chill coma recovery (CCR) time, during the early and late adult stage in the Glanville fritillary butterfly. We also investigate the genetic basis of cold tolerance by associating CCR variation with polymorphisms in candidate genes that have a known role in insect physiology. Our results demonstrate that a cooler developmental temperature leads to reduced cold tolerance in the early adult stage, whereas cooler conditions during the adult stage lead to increased cold tolerance. This suggests that adult acclimation, but not developmental plasticity, of adult cold tolerance is adaptive. This could be explained by the ecological conditions the Glanville fritillary experiences in the field, where temperature during early summer, but not spring, is predictive of thermal conditions during the butterfly's flight season. In addition, an amino acid polymorphism (Ala-Glu) in the gene flightin, which has a known function in insect flight and locomotion, was associated with CCR. These amino acids have distinct biochemical properties and may thus affect protein function and/or structure. To our knowledge, our study is the first to link genetic variation in flightin to cold tolerance, or thermal adaptation in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)636-645
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number5
Early online date3 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • candidate genes
  • chill coma recovery
  • developmental plasticity
  • flightin
  • genetics
  • insects
  • Lepidoptera
  • physiology
  • thermal acclimation


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