Mountain Pine Beetle Voltinism and Life History Characteristics across Latitudinal and Elevational Gradients in the Western United States

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Substantial genetic variation in development time is known to exist among mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) populations across the western United States. The effect of this variation on geographic patterns in voltinism (generation time) and thermal requirements to produce specific voltinism pathways have not been investigated. The influence of voltinism on fitness traits, body size, and sex ratio is also unclear. We monitored mountain pine beetle voltinism, adult body size, sex ratio, and air temperatures at sites across latitudinal and elevational gradients in the western United States. With the exception of two sites at the coolest and warmest locations, the number of days required to complete a generation was similar. Thermal units required to achieve a generation, however, were significantly less for individuals at the coolest sites. Evolved adaptations explain this pattern, including developmental rates and thresholds that serve to synchronize cohorts and minimize cold-sensitive life stages in winter. These same adaptations reduce the capacity of mountain pine beetle at the warmest sites to take full advantage of increased thermal units, limiting the capacity for bivoltinism within the current realized distribution. Temperature was not correlated with adult size and sex ratio, and size was greatest in host trees other than lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Dougl.). Our results provide baseline information for evaluating population responses in a changing climate.

Keywords: Dendroctonus ponderosae; bark beetle; climate change; countergradient variation; phenology

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 7, 2014

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