Reduced plasticity and variance in physiological rates of ectotherm populations under climate change

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Daniel W.A. Noble, Fonti Kar, Alex Bush, Frank Seebacher, Shinichi Nakagawa


Climate change is expected to result in warmer and more variable thermal environments globally. Maintaining phenotypic variability in physiological rates and adjusting them in response to extreme temperatures (plasticity) is essential for allowing populations to adapt to climate change. Yet, incorporating both plasticity and changes in phenotypic variation when predicting the impacts of climate change on populations is often ignored. Using newly developed effect size estimates and meta-analysis (>1900 effects from 226 species), we show that across habitats relative variance in physiological rates decreases at higher temperatures. Freshwater ectotherms are capable of acclimating and have the smallest reductions in relative variance. Marine organisms also showed a capacity to acclimate to higher temperatures, but capacity for plasticity traded-off with a reduction in relative variance in physiological rates at higher temperatures. Relative variance reductions were particularly pronounced for terrestrial ectotherms, and this coincided with a lack of capacity for acclimation, highlighting the vulnerability of terrestrial ectotherms to climate change. Our results show that beneficial acclimation responses in some ecosystems (marine and freshwater) may trade-off with reductions in physiological rate variance that can have important evolutionary and ecological ramifications that affect our understanding of how climate change will impact populations now and in the future.



Biology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences



Published: 2024-02-17 17:48

Last Updated: 2024-03-21 08:58

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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