Theory predicts the emergence of generalists in variable environments and antagonistic pleiotropy to favour specialists in constant environments, but empirical data seldom support such generalist–specialist trade-offs. We selected for generalists and specialists in the dung fly Sepsis punctum (Diptera: Sepsidae) under conditions that we predicted would reveal antagonistic pleiotropy and multivariate trade-offs underlying thermal reaction norms for juvenile development. We performed replicated laboratory evolution using four treatments: adaptation at a hot (31 °C) or a cold (15 °C) temperature, or under regimes fluctuating between these temperatures, either within or between generations. After 20 generations, we assessed parental effects and genetic responses of thermal reaction norms for three correlated life-history traits: size at maturity, juvenile growth rate and juvenile survival. We find evidence for antagonistic pleiotropy for performance at hot and cold temperatures, and a temperature-mediated trade-off between juvenile survival and size at maturity, suggesting that trade-offs associated with environmental tolerance can arise via intensified evolutionary compromises between genetically correlated traits. However, despite this antagonistic pleiotropy, we found no support for the evolution of increased thermal tolerance breadth at the expense of reduced maximal performance, suggesting low genetic variance in the generalist–specialist dimension.