Basic Life Science Research Associate, Biology
For organisms living in the intertidal zone, temperature is an important selective agent that can shape species distributions and drive phenotypic variation among populations. Littorinid snails, which occupy the upper limits of rocky shores and estuaries worldwide, often experience extreme high temperatures and prolonged aerial emersion during low tides, yet their robust physiology--coupled with morphological and behavioral traits--permits these gastropods to persist and exert strong grazing control over algal communities. We use a mechanistic heat-budget model to compare the effects of behavioral and morphological traits on the body temperatures of five species of littorinid snails under natural weather conditions. Model predictions and field experiments indicate that, for all five species, the relative contribution of shell color or sculpturing to temperature regulation is small, on the order of 0.2-2 °C, while behavioral choices such as removing the foot from the substratum or reorienting the shell can lower body temperatures by 2-4 °C on average. Temperatures in central California rarely exceeded the thermal tolerance limits of the local littorinid species during the study period, but at sites where snails are regularly exposed to extreme high temperatures, the functional significance of the tested traits may be important. The mechanistic approach used here provides the ability to gauge the importance of behavioral and morphological traits for controlling body temperature as species approach their physiological thresholds.
View details for Web of Science ID 000292532300006
View details for PubMedID 21712229
View details for Web of Science ID 000268011200003
Limpets of the genus Lottia occupy a broad vertical distribution on wave-exposed rocky shores, a range that encompasses gradients in the frequency and severity of thermal and desiccation stress brought on by aerial emersion. Using western blot analysis of levels of heat-shock protein 70 (Hsp70), we examined the heat-shock responses of four Lottia congeners: Lottia scabra and L. austrodigitalis, which occur in the high-intertidal zone, and L. pelta and L. scutum, which are restricted to the low- and mid-intertidal zones. Our results suggest distinct strategies of Hsp70 expression in limpets occupying different heights and orientations in the rocky intertidal zone. In freshly field-collected animals and in specimens acclimated at ambient temperature ( approximately 14 degrees C) for 14 days, the two high-intertidal species had higher constitutive levels of Hsp70 than the low- and mid-intertidal species. During aerial exposure to high temperatures, the two low-shore species and L. austrodigitalis exhibited an onset of Hsp70 expression at 28 degrees C; no induction of Hsp70 occurred in L. scabra. Our findings suggest that high-intertidal congeners of Lottia employ a "preparative defense" strategy involving maintenance of high constitutive levels of Hsp70 in their cells as a mechanism for protection against periods of extreme and unpredictable heat stress.
View details for Web of Science ID 000260049800007
View details for PubMedID 18840778
Unlike most bivalves, scallops are able to swim, relying on a shell with reduced mass and streamlined proportions, a large fast-twitch adductor muscle and the elastic characteristics of the shell's hinge. Despite these adaptations, swimming in scallops is never far from failure, and it is surprising to find a swimming scallop in Antarctica, where low temperature increases the viscosity of seawater, decreases the power output of the adductor muscle and potentially compromises the energy storage capability of the hinge material (abductin, a protein rubber). How does the Antarctic scallop, Adamussium colbecki, cope with the cold? Its shell mass is substantially reduced relative to that of temperate and tropical scallops, but this potential advantage is more than offset by a drastic reduction in adductor-muscle mass. By contrast, A. colbecki's abductin maintains a higher resilience at low temperatures than does the abductin of a temperate scallop. This resilience may help to compensate for reduced muscle mass, assisting the Antarctic scallop to maintain its marginal swimming ability. However, theory suggests that this assistance should be slight, so the adaptive value of increased resilience remains open to question. The high resilience of A. colbecki abductin at low temperatures may be of interest to materials engineers.
View details for DOI 10.1242/jeb.02538
View details for Web of Science ID 000242132800015
View details for PubMedID 17079720
When coupled with long-term meteorological records, a heat-budget model for the limpet, Lottia gigantea, provides a wealth of information regarding environmental and topographic controls of body temperature in this ecologically important species. (1) The maximum body temperature predicted for any site (37.5 degrees C) is insufficient to kill all limpets, suggesting that acute thermal stress does not set an absolute upper limit to the elevation of L. gigantea on the shore. Therefore, the upper limit must be set by behavioral responses, sublethal effects or ecological interactions. (2) Temperatures sufficient to kill limpets are reached at only a small fraction of substratum orientations and elevations and on only three occasions in 5 years. These rare predicted lethal temperatures could easily be missed in field measurements, thereby influencing the interpretation of thermal stress. (3) Body temperature is typically higher than air temperature, but maximum air temperature can nonetheless be used as an accurate predictor of maximum body temperature. Warmer air temperatures in the future may thus cause increased mortality in this intertidal species. Interpretation of the ecological effects of elevated body temperature depends strongly on laboratory measurements of thermal stress, highlighting the need for additional research on the temporal and spatial variability of thermal limits and sublethal stress. The lengthy time series of body temperatures calculated from the heat-budget model provides insight into how these physiological measurements should be conducted.
View details for DOI 10.1242/jeb.02258
View details for Web of Science ID 000238421800012
View details for PubMedID 16788025