Testing the resilience, physiological plasticity and mechanisms underlying upper temperature limits of Antarctic marine ecto-therms

Antarctic marine ectotherms live in the constant cold and are characterised by limited resilience to elevated temperature. Here we tested three of the central paradigms underlying this resilience. Firstly, we assessed the ability of eight species, from seven classes representing a range of functional groups, to survive, for 100 to 303 days, at temperatures 0 to 4 °C above previously calculated long-term temperature limits. Survivors were then tested for acclimation responses to acute warming and acclimatisation, in the field, was tested in the seastar Odontaster validus collected in different years, seasons and locations within Antarctica. Finally, we tested the importance of oxygen limitation in controlling upper thermal limits. We found that four of 11 species studied were able to survive for more than 245 days (245–303 days) at higher than previously recorded temperatures, between 6 and 10 °C. Only survivors of the anemone Urticinopsis antarctica did not acclimate CTmax and there was no evidence of acclimatisation in O. validus. We found species-specific effects of mild hyperoxia (30% oxygen) on survival duration, which was extended (two species), not changed (four species) or reduced (one species), re-enforcing that oxygen limitation is not universal in dictating thermal survival thresholds. Thermal sensitivity is clearly the product of multiple ecological and physiological capacities, and this diversity of response needs further investigation and interpretation to improve our ability to predict future patterns of biodiversity.


Publication status:
Authors: Morley, Simon A. ORCIDORCID record for Simon A. Morley, Bates, Amanda E., Clark, Melody S. ORCIDORCID record for Melody S. Clark, Fitzcharles, Elaine, Smith, Rebecca, Stainthorp, Rose E., Peck, Lloyd ORCIDORCID record for Lloyd Peck

On this site: Elaine Fitzcharles, Lloyd Peck, Melody Clark, Rebecca Smith, Rose Stainthorp, Simon Morley
29 March, 2024
Biology / 13
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