Phenotypic plasticity of thermal tolerances in five oribatid mite species from sub-Antarctic Marion Island

Deere J.A. ; Sinclair B.J. ; Marshall D.J. ; Chown S.L. (2006)


The extent to which phenotypic plasticity might mediate short-term responses to environmental change is controversial. Nonetheless, theoretical work has made the prediction that plasticity should be common, especially in predictably variable environments by comparison with those that are either stable or unpredictable. Here we examine these predictions by comparing the phenotypic plasticity of thermal tolerances (supercooling point (SCP), lower lethal temperature (LLT), upper lethal temperature (ULT)), following acclimation at either 0, 5, 10 or 15 °C, for seven days, of five, closely-related ameronothroid mite species. These species occupy marine and terrestrial habitats, which differ in their predictability, on sub-Antarctic Marion Island. All of the species showed some evidence of pre-freeze mortality (SCPs -9 to -23 °C; LLTs -3 to -15 °C), though methodological effects might have contributed to the difference between the SCPs and LLTs, and the species are therefore considered moderately chill tolerant. ULTs varied between 36 °C and 41 °C. Acclimation effects on SCP and LLT were typically stronger in the marine than in the terrestrial species, in keeping with the prediction of strong acclimation responses in species from predictably variable environments, but weaker responses in species from unpredictable environments. The converse was found for ULT. These findings demonstrate that acclimation responses vary among traits in the same species. Moreover, they suggest that there is merit in assessing the predictability of changes in high and low environmental temperatures separately. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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