Patrick T. Rohner | Armin P. Moczek

Understanding the interplay between genetic differentiation, ancestral plasticity, and the evolution of plasticity during adaptation to environmental variation is critical to predict populations’ responses to environmental change. However, the role of plasticity in rapid adaptation in nature remains poorly understood. We here use the invasion of the horned beetle Onthophagus taurus in the United States during the last half century to study the contribution of ancestral plasticity and post-invasion evolution of plastic responses in rapid population differentiation. We document latitudinal variation in life history and morphology, including genetic compensation in development time and body size, likely adaptive responses to seasonal constraints in the North. However, clinal variation in development time and sizewas strongly dependent on rearing temperature, suggesting that population differentiation in plasticity played a critical role in successful adaptation on ecological timescales. Clinal variation in wing shape was independent of ancestral plasticity, but correlated with derived plasticity, consistent with evolutionary interdependence. In contrast, clinal variation
in tibia shape aligned poorly with thermal plasticity. Overall, this study suggests that post-invasion evolution of plasticity contributed to range expansions and concurrent adaptation to novel climatic conditions.