Behavioral thermoregulation in a tropical gastropod: links to climate change scenarios


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Abstract

Tropical species are vulnerable to global warming because they live at, or near to, their upper thermal threshold limits. Therefore, the predicted increase in the frequency of warming events in the tropics is expected to be critical for the survival of local species. This study explored the major environmental variables which were thought to be correlated with body temperatures (BTs) of the tropical snail Littoraria scabra at the niche level. A correlation between BT and substrate temperature (ST) was detected from field observations which suggests a possible causal relationship between both substrate and BTs. In contrast, there was no correlation between BT and air temperature. Field observations suggest that 33.4 °C may be L. scabra upper limit of substrate surface temperature, although further experiments are needed to assess if the upper limit of physiological tolerance is actually different. As L. scabra individuals were free to choose their substrata, the observed distribution pattern at the niche level is related to L. scabra's behavior. Additionally, substrate surface temperatures were very heterogeneous at centimeter scale (i.e. from 22.5 to 53.1 °C) and L. scabra was shown to select specific STs (i.e. between 22.5 and 33.4 °C) rather than microhabitat type. Therefore, L. scabra did not seem to behaviorally thermoregulate through microhabitat selection nor aggregation. In contrast, behavioral experiments showed that L. scabra has the ability to actively select a thermally favorable site over short temporal scale (i.e. individual average speed of 1.26 cm min−1) following exposure to high temperatures above 33.4 °C. Hence, this study supports the crucial need to integrate intertidal invertebrate behavioral responses to thermal constraints in climate change studies.

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