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Species distributions are shifting in response to increased habitat temperatures as a result of ongoing climate change. Understanding variation in physiological plasticity among species and populations is important for predicting these distribution shifts. Interspecific variation in intertidal ectotherms’ short-term thermal plasticity has been well established. However, intraspecific variation among populations from differing thermal habitats remains a question pertinent to understanding the effects of climate change on species’ ranges. In this study, we explored upper thermal tolerance limits and plasticity of those limits using a foot muscle metric and 2 cardiac metrics (Arrhenius breakpoint temperature, ABT, and flatline temperature, FLT) in adult file limpets Lottia limatula. Limpets were collected from thermally different coastal and inland-estuarine habitats and held for 2 wk at 13, 17 or 21°C prior to thermal performance assays. Compared to limpets from the warm estuary site, limpets from the cold outer coast site had similar foot muscle critical thermal maxima (CTmax; 35.2 vs. 35.6°C) but lower cardiac thermal tolerances (ABT: 30.5 vs. 35.1°C). Limpets from the cold coast site had higher acclimation responses in foot muscle CTmax (0.22°C per 1°C rise in acclimation) than those of the warm estuary site (0.07°C per 1°C rise in acclimation), but lower acclimation responses in cardiac thermal tolerance (ABT: -0.85°C per 1°C rise in acclimation) than those of the estuary site (ABT: 0.10°C per 1°C rise in acclimation). Since outer coast populations had lower cardiac plasticity and higher mortalities in the warm acclimation, we predict L. limatula from colder habitats will be more susceptible to rising temperatures. Our findings illustrate the importance of population-specific variation in short-term thermal plasticity when considering the effects of climate change on ectotherms.


This article was originally published in Aquatic Biology, volume 28, in 2019.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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