Extensive acclimation in ectotherms conceals interspecific variation in thermal tolerance limits

Pintor, Anna F.V., Schwarzkopf, Lin, and Krockenberger, Andrew K. (2016) Extensive acclimation in ectotherms conceals interspecific variation in thermal tolerance limits. PLoS ONE, 11 (3). e0150408. pp. 1-15.

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Species' tolerance limits determine their capacity to tolerate climatic extremes and limit their potential distributions. Interspecific variation in thermal tolerances is often proposed to indicate climatic vulnerability and is, therefore, the subject of many recent meta-studies on differential capacities of species from climatically different habitats to deal with climate change. Most studies on thermal tolerances do not acclimate animals or use inconsistent, and insufficient, acclimation times, limiting our knowledge of the shape, duration and extent of acclimation responses. Consequently patterns in thermal tolerances observed in meta-analyses, based on data from the literature are based on inconsistent, partial acclimation and true trends may be obscured. In this study we describe time-course of complete acclimation of critical thermal minima in the tropical ectotherm Carlia longipes and compare it to the average acclimation response of other reptiles, estimated from published data, to assess how much acclimation time may contribute to observed differences in thermal limits. Carlia longipes decreased their lower critical thermal limits by 2.4°C and completed 95% of acclimation in 17 weeks. Wild populations did not mirror this acclimation process over the winter. Other reptiles appear to decrease cold tolerance more quickly (95% in 7 weeks) and to a greater extent, with an estimated average acclimation response of 6.1°C. However, without data on tolerances after longer acclimation times available, our capacity to estimate final acclimation state is very limited. Based on the subset of data available for meta-analysis, much of the variation in cold tolerance observed in the literature can be attributed to acclimation time. Our results indicate that (i) acclimation responses can be slow and substantial, even in tropical species, and (ii) interspecific differences in acclimation speed and extent may obscure trends assessed in some meta-studies. Cold tolerances of wild animals are representative of cumulative responses to recent environments, while lengthy acclimation is necessary for controlled comparisons of physiological tolerances. Measures of inconsistent, intermediate acclimation states, as reported by many studies, represent neither the realised nor the potential tolerance in that population, are very likely underestimates of species' physiological capacities and may consequently be of limited value.

Item ID: 44017
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
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© 2016 Pintor et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Funders: James Cook University (JCU), Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change (JCU CTBCC), National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), Skyrail Rainforest Foundation (SRF)
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2016 07:46
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310912 Comparative physiology @ 33%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310907 Animal physiological ecology @ 34%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3104 Evolutionary biology > 310402 Biogeography and phylogeography @ 33%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960305 Ecosystem Adaptation to Climate Change @ 50%
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