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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Temperature change exerts sex-specific effects on behavioural variation

Brand, Jack A.; Yee, Winston K. W.; Aitkenhead, Ian J.; Martin, Jake M.; Polverino, Giovanni; Chown, Steven L.; Wong, Bob B. M.; Dowling, Damian K.


Temperature is a key factor mediating organismal fitness and has important consequences for species' ecology. While the mean effects of temperature on behaviour have been well-documented in ectotherms, how temperature alters behavioural variation among and within individuals, and whether this differs between the sexes, remains unclear. Such effects likely have ecological and evolutionary consequences, given that selection acts at the individual level. We investigated the effect of temperature on individual-level behavioural variation and metabolism in adult male and female Drosophila melanogaster (n = 129), by taking repeated measures of locomotor activity and metabolic rate at both a standard temperature (25 & DEG;C) and a high temperature (28 & DEG;C). Males were moderately more responsive in their mean activity levels to temperature change when compared to females. However, this was not true for either standard or active metabolic rate, where no sex differences in thermal metabolic plasticity were found. Furthermore, higher temperatures increased both among- and within-individual variation in male, but not female, locomotor activity. Given that behavioural variation can be critical to population persistence, we suggest that future studies test whether sex differences in the amount of behavioural variation expressed in response to temperature change may result in sex-specific vulnerabilities to a warming climate.


animal personality; behavioural plasticity; between-individual variation; climate change; physiology; within-individual variation

Published in

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
2023, Volume: 290, number: 2002, article number: 20230110
Publisher: ROYAL SOC