Life history traits in many ectotherms show complex patterns of variation among conspecific populations sampled along wide latitudinal or climatic gradients. However, few studies have assessed whether these patterns can be explained better by thermal reaction norms of multiple life history traits, covering major aspects of the life cycle. In this study, we compared five populations of a Holarctic, numerically dominant soil microarthropod species, Folsomia quadrioculata, sampled from a wide latitudinal gradient (56–81°N), for growth, development, fecundity, and survival across four temperatures (10, 15, 20, and 25°C) in common garden experiments. We evaluated the extent to which macroclimate could explain differences in thermal adaptation and life history strategies among populations. The common garden experiments revealed large genotypic differences among populations in all the traits, which were little explained by latitude and macroclimate. In addition, the life history strategies (traits combined) hardly revealed any systematic difference related to latitude and macroclimate. The overall performance of the northernmost population from the most stochastic microclimate and the southernmost population, which remains active throughout the year, was least sensitive to the temperature treatments. In contrast, performance of the population from the most predictable microclimate peaked within a narrow temperature range (around 15°C). Our findings revealed limited support for macroclimate‐based predictions, and indicated that local soil habitat conditions related to predictability and seasonality might have considerable influence on the evolution of life history strategies of F. quadrioculata. This study highlights the need to combine knowledge on microhabitat characteristics, and demography, with findings from common garden experiments, for identifying the key drivers of life history evolution across large spatial scales, and wide climate gradients. We believe that similar approaches may substantially improve the understanding of adaptation in many terrestrial ectotherms with low dispersal ability.
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