Temperature is a key environmental factor inducing phenotypic plasticity in a wide range of behavioral, morphological, and life history traits in ectotherms. The strength of temperature-induced responses in fitness-related traits may be determined by plasticity of the underlying physiological or biochemical traits. Lipid composition may be an important trait underlying fitness response to temperature, because it affects membrane fluidity as well as availability of stored energy reserves. Here, we investigate the effect of temperature on lipid composition of the springtail Orchesella cincta by measuring thermal reaction norms across five different temperatures after four weeks of cold or warm acclimation. Fatty acid composition in storage and membrane lipids showed a highly plastic response to temperature, but the responses of single fatty acids revealed deviations from the expectations based on HVA theory. We found an accumulation of C18:2n6 and C18:3n3 at higher temperatures and the preservation of C20:4n6 across temperatures, which is contrary to the expectation of decreased unsaturation at higher temperatures. The thermal response of these fatty acids in O. cincta differed from the findings in other species, and therefore shows there is interspecific variation in how single fatty acids contribute to HVA. Future research should determine the consequences of such variation in terms of costs and benefits for the thermal performance of species.
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