The goal of this study was to relate the temperature response of all developmental stages and reproductive biology of two congener copepod pairs inhabiting different biogeographic regions to their geographic distribution patterns. Survival of adult females and egg production, embryonic development and hatching success of the genera Centropages and Temora from two stations, in the North Sea and the Mediterranean, were studied in laboratory experiments in a temperature range from 2 to 35°C. Postembryonic development was determined from cohorts raised at temperatures between 10 and 20°C with surplus food. Tolerance limits and optima of female survival, reproduction and development distinguished the northern species C. hamatus and T. longicornis from the southern T. stylifera, while C. typicus, which is found in both regions, was intermediate. Thus, thermal preferences could in part explain distribution patterns of these species. While C. hamatus and the two Temora species showed distinct temperature ranges, C. typicus was able to tolerate different temperature conditions, resulting in its wide distribution range from the subarctic to the tropics. However, the thermal range of a species did not necessarily correlate with the optimal temperatures in the experiments. Egg production and stage development were surprisingly low in T. stylifera, which has a mere southern distribution.