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Proc Biol Sci. 2018 Apr 25;285(1877). pii: 20172617. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2017.2617.

Plasticity of thermal tolerance and its relationship with growth rate in juvenile mussels (Mytilus californianus).

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Department of Biology, Loyola Marymount University, 1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90045, USA
Department of Biological Sciences, California State University, Sacramento, 6000 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95819, USA.
Department of Biology, Loyola Marymount University, 1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90045, USA.
School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, PO Box 644236, Pullman, WA 99164, USA.


Complex life cycles characterized by uncertainty at transitions between larval/juvenile and adult environments could favour irreversible physiological plasticity at such transitions. To assess whether thermal tolerance of intertidal mussels (Mytilus californianus) adjusts to post-settlement environmental conditions, we collected juveniles from their thermally buffered microhabitat from high- and low-shore locations at cool (wave-exposed) and warm (wave-protected) sites. Juveniles were transplanted to unsheltered cages at the two low sites or placed in a common garden. Juveniles transplanted to the warm site for one month in summer had higher thermal tolerance, regardless of origin site. By contrast, common-garden juveniles from all sites had lower tolerance indistinguishable from exposed site transplants. After six months in the field plus a common garden period, there was a trend for higher thermal tolerance at the protected site, while reduced thermal tolerance at both sites indicated seasonal acclimatization. Thermal tolerance and growth rate were inversely related after one but not six months; protected-site transplants were more tolerant but grew more slowly. In contrast to juveniles, adults from low-shore exposed and protected sites retained differences in thermal tolerance after common garden treatment in summer. Both irreversible and reversible forms of plasticity must be considered in organismal responses to changing environments.


acclimatization; developmental plasticity; growth; heat stress; rocky intertidal zone

[Available on 2019-04-25]

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