The effect of acclimation temperature on thermal activity thresholds in polar terrestrial invertebrates

In the Maritime Antarctic and High Arctic, soil microhabitat temperatures throughout the year typically range between -10 and +5°C. However, on occasion, they can exceed 20°C, and these instances are likely to increase and intensify as a result of climate warming. Remaining active under both cool and warm conditions is therefore important for polar terrestrial invertebrates if they are to forage, reproduce and maximise their fitness. In the current study, lower and upper thermal activity thresholds were investigated in the polar Collembola, Megaphorura arctica and Cryptopygus antarcticus, and the mite, Alaskozetes antarcticus. Specifically, the effect of acclimation on these traits was explored. Sub-zero activity was exhibited in all three species, at temperatures as low as -4.6°C in A. antarcticus. At high temperatures, all three species had capacity for activity above 30°C and were most active at 25°C. This indicates a comparable spread of temperatures across which activity can occur to that seen in temperate and tropical species, but with the activity window shifted towards lower temperatures. In all three species following one month acclimation at -2°C, the chill coma (= the temperature at which movement and activity cease) and critical thermal minimum (= low temperature at which coordination is no longer shown) occurred at lower temperatures than for individuals maintained at +4°C (except for the CTmin of M. arctica). Individuals acclimated at +10°C conversely showed little change in their chill coma or CTmin. A similar trend was demonstrated for the heat coma and critical thermal maximum (CTmax) of all species. Following one month at -2°C, the heat coma and CTmax were reduced as compared with +4°C reared individuals, whereas the heat coma and CTmax of individuals acclimated at +10°C showed little adjustment. The data obtained suggest these invertebrates are able to take maximum advantage of the short growing season and have some capacity, in spite of limited plasticity at high temperatures, to cope with climate change.


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Authors: Everatt, M.J., Bale, J.S., Convey, P. ORCIDORCID record for P. Convey, Worland, M.R., Hayward, S.A.L.

On this site: Roger Worland, Peter Convey
1 October, 2013
Journal of Insect Physiology / 59
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