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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 486:173-187 (2013)  -  DOI:

Thermal tolerance of Crepidula fornicata (Gastropoda) life history stages from intertidal and subtidal subpopulations

Casey M. Diederich*, Jan A. Pechenik 

Biology Department, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts 02155, USA

ABSTRACT: The ability to withstand high summer temperatures is an extremely important determinant of species distributions in the intertidal zone; most marine organisms cannot live intertidally because of the harsh conditions experienced during aerial emersion. The members of some species, though, live both intertidally and subtidally, and their physiological tolerance to stressors may differ depending on their genetic connectivity, acclimatization, and differential postsettlement mortality. Furthermore, tolerances of organisms at different life-history stages within both habitats may differ and will play an important role in determining adult distributions. To determine the effect of habitat and life-history stage on physiological tolerance and the likely contribution of upper thermal tolerance limits to the native distribution of an important invasive species, the slippershell snail Crepidula fornicata, we compared the thermal tolerance of intertidal and subtidal embryos and adults in relation to conditions that they experience in the field. We found C. fornicata living both intertidally and subtidally in Bissel Cove, Rhode Island, where they experienced drastically different thermal conditions. Intertidal individuals achieved body temperatures as high as 42°C, more than 15°C higher than those recorded in subtidal conspecifics. However, subtidal individuals had remarkably high thermal tolerances that were nearly identical to those of intertidal conspecifics (lethal range = 33-37°C following a 3 h exposure). Furthermore, embryos were even more tolerant to high thermal stress than adults. These results are surprising: the few previous studies that have compared thermal tolerances among individuals at different life-history stages have found differences among them, and early stages are generally more sensitive than adults. Interestingly, the markedly higher temperatures that intertidal animals experienced in this study had little effect on their thermal tolerance. Intertidal (but not subtidal) slippershell snails are now living dangerously close to their upper thermal limits and will almost certainly be relegated to the subtidal as global temperatures rise.

KEY WORDS: Intertidal · Subtidal · Crepidula · Thermal stress · Physiological tolerance

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Cite this article as: Diederich CM, Pechenik JA (2013) Thermal tolerance of Crepidula fornicata (Gastropoda) life history stages from intertidal and subtidal subpopulations. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 486:173-187.

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