Exploring thermal flight responses as predictors of flight ability and geographic range size in Drosophila
De Araujo, L.I.
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Thermal flight performance curves (TFPCs) may be a useful proxy for determining dispersal on daily timescales in winged insect species. Few studies have assessed TFPCs across a range of species under standard conditions despite that they may be useful in predicting variation in performance, abundance or geographic range shifts with forecast climate variability. Indeed, the factors determining realized dispersal within and among flying insect species are generally poorly understood. To better understand how flight performance may be correlated with geographic range extent and potential latitudinal climate variability, we estimated the thermal performance curves of flight ability in 11 Drosophilidae species (in 4 °C increments across 16–28 °C) after standard laboratory rearing for two generations. We tested if key morphological, evolutionary or ecological factors (e.g. species identity, sex, body mass, wing loading, geographic range size) predicted traits of TFPCs (including optimum temperature, maximum performance, thermal breadth of performance) or flight ability (success/failure to fly). Although several parameters of TFPCs varied among species these were typically not statistically significant probably owing to the relatively small pool of species assessed and the limited trait variation detected. The best explanatory model of these flight responses across species included significant positive effects of test temperature and wing area. However, the rank of geographic distribution breadth and phylogeny failed to explain significant variation in most of the traits, except for thermal performance breadth, of thermal flight performance curves among these 11 species. Future studies that employ a wider range of Drosophilidae species, especially if coupled with fine-scale estimates of species' environmental niches, would be useful.