Plasticity of thermal performance curves in a narrow range endemic water beetle
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Thermal history can plastically alter the response of ectotherms to temperature, and thermal performance curves (TPCs) are powerful tools for exploring how organismal-level performance varies with temperature. Plasticity in TPCs may be favoured in thermally variable habitats, where it can result in fitness benefits. However, thermal physiology remains insufficiently studied for freshwater insects despite freshwater biodiversity being at great risk under global change. Here, we assess how acclimation at either summer or winter average temperatures changes TPCs for locomotion activity and metabolism in Enochrus jesusarribasi (Hydrophilidae), a water beetle endemic to shallow saline streams in SE Spain. This beetle is a bimodal gas exchanger and so we also assessed how aerial and aquatic gas exchange varied across temperatures for both acclimation treatments. Responses of locomotory TPCs to thermal acclimation were relatively weak, but high temperature acclimated beetles tended to exhibit higher maximum locomotor activity and reduced TPC breadth than those acclimated at lower temperature. High temperature acclimation increased the thermal sensitivity of metabolic rates, contrary to the response generally found in aquatic organisms. Higher metabolic rates upon high temperature acclimation were achieved by increasing aerial, rather than aquatic oxygen uptake. Such plastic respiratory behaviour likely contributed to enhanced locomotor performance at temperatures around the optimum and thermal plasticity could thus be an important component in the response of aquatic insects to climate change. However, high temperature acclimation appeared to be detrimental for locomotion in subsequent exposure at upper sublethal temperatures, suggesting that this narrow range endemic may be vulnerable to future climate warming. This study demonstrates that TPCs are context-specific, differing with performance metric as well as thermal history. Such context dependency must be considered when using TPCs to predict organismal responses to climate change.
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