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Biol Lett. 2008 Feb 23;4(1):99-102.

Thermal tolerance, acclimatory capacity and vulnerability to global climate change.

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  • 1Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological Sciences, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon PL4 8AA, UK. piero.calosi@plymouth.ac.uk


Despite evidence that organismal distributions are shifting in response to recent climatic warming, we have little information on direct links between species' physiology and vulnerability to climate change. We demonstrate a positive relationship between upper thermal tolerance and its acclimatory ability in a well-defined clade of closely related European diving beetles. We predict that species with the lowest tolerance to high temperatures will be most at risk from the adverse effects of future warming, since they have both low absolute thermal tolerance and poor acclimatory ability. Upper thermal tolerance is also positively related to species' geographical range size, meaning that species most at risk are already the most geographically restricted ones, being endemic to Mediterranean mountain systems. Our findings on the relationship between tolerance and acclimatory ability contrast with results from marine animals, suggesting that generalizations regarding thermal tolerance and responses to future rapid climate change may be premature.

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