Gene expression in closely related species mirrors local adaptation: Consequences for responses to a warming world

Shawn T. O'Neil, Jason D.K. Dzurisin, Caroline M. Williams, Neil F. Lobo, Jessica K. Higgins, Jillian M. Deines, Rory D. Carmichael, Erliang Zeng, John C. Tan, Grace C. Wu, Scott J. Emrich, Jessica J. Hellmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Local adaptation of populations could preclude or slow range expansions in response to changing climate, particularly when dispersal is limited. To investigate the differential responses of populations to changing climatic conditions, we exposed poleward peripheral and central populations of two Lepidoptera to reciprocal, common-garden climatic conditions and compared their whole-transcriptome expression. We found evidence of simple population differentiation in both species, and in the species with previously identified population structure and phenotypic local adaptation, we found several hundred genes that responded in a synchronized and localized fashion. These genes were primarily involved in energy metabolism and oxidative stress, and expression levels were most divergent between populations in the same environment in which we previously detected divergence for metabolism. We found no localized genes in the species with less population structure and for which no local adaptation was previously detected. These results challenge the assumption that species are functionally similar across their ranges and poleward peripheral populations are preadapted to warmer conditions. Rather, some taxa deserve population-level consideration when predicting the effects of climate change because they respond in genetically based, distinctive ways to changing conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2686-2698
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • climate
  • diapause
  • energy metabolism
  • Lepidoptera
  • local adaptation
  • oxidative stress
  • range shift


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