Warmer and more acidic conditions enhance performance of an endemic low shore gastropod

Changing ocean temperatures are predicted to challenge marine organisms, especially when combined with other factors, such as ocean acidification. Acclimation, as a form of phenotypic plasticity, can however, moderate the consequences of changing environments for biota. Our understanding of how altered temperature and acidification together influence species acclimation responses is, however, limited compared to responses to single stressors. This study investigated how temperature and acidification affected the thermal tolerance and righting speed of the Girdled Dogwhelk, Trochia cingulata (Linnaeus, 1771). Whelks were acclimated for two weeks to combinations of three temperatures (11°C: cold, 13°C: moderate and 15°C: warm) and two pH regimes (8.0: moderate and 7.5: acidic). We measured the temperature sensitivity of righting response by generating thermal performance curves from individual data collected at seven test temperatures and determined critical thermal minima (CTmin) and maxima (CTmax). We found that T. cingulata has a broad basal thermal tolerance range (∼38°C) and after acclimation to the warm temperature regime, both the optimal temperature for maximum righting speed and CTmax increased. Contrary to predictions, acidification did not narrow this population’s thermal tolerance but increased CTmax. These plastic responses are likely driven by the predictable exposure to temperature extremes measured in the field which originate from the local tidal cycle and the periodic acidification associated with ocean upwelling in the region. This acclimation ability suggests that T. cingulata has at least some capacity to buffer the thermal changes and increased acidification predicted to occur with climate change.

Martin N., Robinson T. B. & Clusella-Trullas S., 2023. Warmer and more acidic conditions enhance performance of an endemic low shore gastropod. Journal of Experimental Biology: jeb.245423. doi: 10.1242/jeb.245423. Article (subscription required).

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