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Can greenhouses eliminate the development of cold resistance of the leafminers?

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Latitudinal patterns for quantitative traits in insect are commonly used to investigate climatic adaptation. We compare the cold resistance of the leafminer (Liriomyza sativae) pupa among populations distributed from tropical to temperate regions, incorporating the thermal overwintering limit of the insect’s range. The patterns of cold resistance for northern and southern populations differ. The southern populations significantly increased their cold resistance with latitude, showing a latitudinal pattern independent of seasons, acclimation regimes, and assay methods. In contrast, the northern populations showed no stable patterns; they were always intermediate in cold hardiness between the low-latitude and high-latitude populations within the overwintering limit. Integration of these data with those of the biologically similar congeneric leafminer, L. huidobrensis, suggests that a pattern shift in stress tolerance associated with the overwintering range limit is probably a general adaptive strategy adopted by freeze–intolerant species that have a high-latitude boundary of distribution, but can only overwinter and develop in protected greenhouses in harsh seasons. Considering the widespread availability of greenhouses for overwintering insects in northern China, we speculated that the large-scale existence of thermally-buffered microhabitats in greenhouses might eliminate the development of cold resistance of the leafminer populations. However, results suggest a strong selection for increased cold resistance for natural populations of Liriomyza species at higher latitudes that can overwinter in the field, but not for populations at latitudes above the thermal limit. Thus, habitat modification associated with greenhouses can limit gene flow and reduce cold tolerances even at latitudes above where the leafminers can overwinter in the field.

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We are grateful to Prof. John Trumble for his critical comments and improving the manuscript. We would like to thank Dr. X.H. Jing and S. Wang for helping collect samples in the fields and culturing of L. sativae as well as Dr. S.G. Hao for assistance with the statistical analysis. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation (No. 30470291) and the Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. KSCX1-SW-13).The experiments comply with the current laws of China where they were performed.

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Correspondence to Le Kang.

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Communicated by Roland Brandl

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Chen, B., Kang, L. Can greenhouses eliminate the development of cold resistance of the leafminers?. Oecologia 144, 187 (2005).

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  • Cold resistance
  • Gene flow
  • Habitat changes
  • Latitudinal variation
  • Liriomyza