Locally-adapted reproductive photoperiodism determines population vulnerability to climate change in burying beetles

Hsiang Yu Tsai, Dustin R. Rubenstein, Yu Meng Fan, Tzu Neng Yuan, Bo Fei Chen, Yezhong Tang, I. Ching Chen, Sheng Feng Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding how phenotypic traits vary among populations inhabiting different environments is critical for predicting a species’ vulnerability to climate change. Yet, little is known about the key functional traits that determine the distribution of populations and the main mechanisms—phenotypic plasticity vs. local adaptation—underlying intraspecific functional trait variation. Using the Asian burying beetle Nicrophorus nepalensis, we demonstrate that mountain ranges differing in elevation and latitude offer unique thermal environments in which two functional traits—thermal tolerance and reproductive photoperiodism—interact to shape breeding phenology. We show that populations on different mountain ranges maintain similar thermal tolerances, but differ in reproductive photoperiodism. Through common garden and reciprocal transplant experiments, we confirm that reproductive photoperiodism is locally adapted and not phenotypically plastic. Accordingly, year-round breeding populations on mountains of intermediate elevation are likely to be most susceptible to future warming because maladaptation occurs when beetles try to breed at warmer temperatures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1398
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Dec 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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