An intertidal fish shows thermal acclimation despite living in a rapidly fluctuating environment

Carmen Rose Burke da Silva, Cynthia Riginos, Robbie Stuart Wilson

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2 Citations (Scopus)


The co-evolution of acclimation capacity and thermal performance breadth has been a contentious issue for decades, and little is known regarding the extent to which acclimation alters the shape of acute thermal performance curves. Current acclimation theory suggests that when daily variation is large and unpredictable ectotherms should not acclimate but should evolve wide performance breadths, allowing maintenance of performance across a wide thermal range. The subtropical intertidal zone, however, experiences a large amount of daily thermal variation, but daily means and ranges shift in predictable ways with season, where daily and seasonal variation is roughly equal. We predicted that animals in this habitat would maintain their capacity to acclimate and that performance breadth would not be altered by acclimation to maintain function with rapidly fluctuating daily temperatures. We tested our prediction using a subtropical goby, Bathygobius cocosensis, which lives in tide pools that vary widely, over days and seasons. We exposed B. cocosensis to winter (12−17 °C) and summer (30−35 °C) thermal conditions for six weeks and then measured the thermal dependence of burst swimming speed, routine and maximum metabolic rate, and ventilation rate between 12 and 36 °C. B. cocosensis exhibited an acclimation response for burst swimming speed, maximum metabolic rate and metabolic scope, but acclimation did not alter the shape of acute thermal performance curves. These results indicate that thermal acclimation can occur when short-term thermal variability is large and equal to seasonal variation, and wide performance breadths can be maintained with acclimation in heterogeneous environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-398
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology B
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Acclimation
  • Climate change
  • Co-evolution
  • Performance
  • Plasticity
  • Thermal variation

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