Plasticity and inter-population variability in physiological and life-history traits of the mussel Mytilus chilensis: A reciprocal transplant experiment

Geographically widespread species must cope with environmental differences between habitats. Information concerning geographic variations in response to climate variability is critical because many morphological, life-history and physiological traits show variation across space. Reciprocal transplant experiments have shown to be relevant to evaluate the role of phenotypic plasticity and potential local adaptation in ecophysiological responses when coping with environmental variability. In this study, we characterize through reciprocal transplant experiments the reaction norms of morphological, biochemical, physiological and life-history traits between two intertidal populations of the socioeconomically important mussel Mytilus chilensis, inhabiting contrasting local environments (estuarine vs coastal habitats). We found a gradient in phenotypic plasticity with plastic trait responses in metabolic, ingestion and clearance rates, and in HsP70 gene expression, and some traits with responses more canalized as growth and calcification rates. This emphasizes that responses not only vary across different local populations but also in different traits in M. chilensis, thus it is difficult to establish an overall trend of the responses at integrated organismal level. Moreover, the synergistic interaction of factors such as salinity and carbonate system parameters evaluated make it necessary to study the response at the population level with emphasis on benthic species important in aquaculture. Finally, field studies such as this one are useful for documenting the patterns of traits variation that occur in nature, identifying possible causes of such variation, and generating testable hypotheses for future controlled experiments.

Osores S. J. A., Lagos N. A., San Martín V., Manríquez P. H., Vargas C. A., Torres R., Navarro J. M., Poupin M. J., Saldías G. S. & Lardies M. A., 2017. Plasticity and inter-population variability in physiological and life-history traits of the mussel Mytilus chilensis: A reciprocal transplant experiment. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 490:1–12. Article (subscription required).

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