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Wyeomyia smithii Coq. (Diptera: Culicidae) completes its pre-adult development only within leaves of the purple pitcher-plant, Sarracenia purpurea. Between early June and mid-October in northern New York State, the daily temperature cycle in leaves lagged the photic cycle by 0-6 h and exhibited a mean daily amplitude of 14.5° C. Thermoperiod acts as a potent zeitgeber. At constant temperatures, W. smithii respond to the shorter dark period of a symmetric skeleton photoperiod as "day". However, a superimposed thermoperiod having the thermophase coincident with the longer dark period overrides this tendancy. Thermoperiods may also perturb the photoperiodic clock but W. smithii compensate for the range of phase relationships between the photic and thermal cycles observed in nature. Compared with constant temperatures, W. smithii develop more slowly but exhibit a 7-fold increase in fecundity when reared under fluctuating temperatures. The net result is a 50% greater capacity for increase in the latter regimen. These results suggest that maximum fitness in W. smithii is achieved through the action of, and not despite, thermal heterogeneity.
Oecologia © 1980 Springer