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J Exp Biol. 2014 Aug 1;217(Pt 15):2650-8. doi: 10.1242/jeb.096958.

Chill coma temperatures appear similar along a latitudinal gradient, in contrast to divergent chill coma recovery times, in two widespread ant species.

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Department of Entomology, Biology and Soil Science Faculty, St Petersburg State University, Universitetskaya emb. 7/9, St Petersburg 199034, Russia


Populations of widely distributed ectotherms demonstrate different cold resistance corresponding to the local climate. However, efficiently thermoregulating ectotherms could avoid divergence in cold resistance. Two species of ants, previously shown to even out latitudinal differences of mean summer temperatures in their nests, were used to test this hypothesis by comparing the temperature dependence of cold resistance in three distant populations (from 50°, 60° and 67°N). The species differ in habitat preferences, one (Myrmica rubra) being less stenotopic than the other (M. ruginodis). Therefore, three different predictions were made about their cold resistance: along the latitudinal gradient, it might be similar within the two species (because of thermoregulation within nests/habitats) or similar only in M. rubra (as a result of thermoregulation among habitats), or divergent at least in M. rubra (no effect of thermoregulation). Among populations of both species, neither differences nor latitudinal trends in chill coma temperature were statistically significant after 11 months of standard conditions, with or without cold hardening. In contrast, recovery time significantly differed among populations in both species, although its latitudinal trends were strongly curvilinear: in M. rubra, the intermediate population tended towards the slowest recovery, and in M. ruginodis, it tended towards the fastest. After 22 months, the patterns remained the same, except that M. ruginodis showed a significant linear latitudinal trend in chill coma temperature (with no significant populational differences). Hence, thermoregulation, both within and among habitats, apparently does keep chill coma temperatures similar. Recovery rate demonstrates divergence, but its curvilinear trends suggest a connection with climates experienced by ancestral populations.


Acclimation; Climatic adaptation; Critical thermal minima; Hardening; Thermoregulation

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