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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 514:263-277 (2014)  -  DOI:

Infrared thermography in marine ecology: methods, previous applications and future challenges

Justin Lathlean1,2,*, Laurent Seuront3,4 

1School of Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales 2522, Australia
2Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, Eastern Cape 6139, South Africa
3Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Laboratoire d’Océanologie et de Geosciences, UMR LOG 8187, Université de Lille 1 – Sciences et Technologies, Station Marine, 62930 Wimereux, France
4School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, South Australia 5001, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Infrared thermography (IRT) is being increasingly utilised by animal physiologists and ecologists to investigate the role of thermal stress and small-scale thermal variability on the distribution and abundance of species. Due to the inability of infrared cameras to work underwater, ecological studies that use IRT have largely been undertaken on terrestrial systems, while fundamentally limited to surfacing mammals in aquatic ecosystems. In recent years, however, IRT has been used to investigate the thermal ecology of intertidal organisms, which are intermittently exposed. The aim of this paper was to summarise the rapidly growing application of IRT in marine ecology, to discuss best practises for using IRT in the marine environment whilst outlining some common limitations, and to suggest future research directions. IRT has been successfully used to count and track the movements of a range of marine mammals as well as to quantify previously unobserved nocturnal feeding patterns. On rocky intertidal shores, IRT has largely been used to assess thermoregulatory processes in gastropods, mussels and sea stars and the effect of heat stress on barnacle recruitment. Ground-truthing and calibration procedures still remain the largest drawback for the use of IRT in ecological studies. However, once the appropriate calculations and working procedures have been implemented, thermal imaging is a reliable and rapid tool for measuring environmental and biological temperature variability. We believe such techniques will become increasingly popular as global temperatures, and hence thermal stress, continue to rise.

KEY WORDS: Behavioural thermoregulation · Body temperature · Climate change · Ectotherms · Heat stress · Infrared camera · Rocky intertidal · Saltmarsh · Thermal imaging · Thermal refugia

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Cite this article as: Lathlean J, Seuront L (2014) Infrared thermography in marine ecology: methods, previous applications and future challenges. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 514:263-277.

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