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The Journal of Experimental Biology



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Heat-Budget Model, Intertidal Zonation, Thermal Limits, Limpet, Lottia gigantea, Heat Stress




When coupled with long-term meteorological records, a heat-budget model for the limpet, Lottia gigantea, provides a wealth of information regarding environmental and topographic controls of body temperature in this ecologically important species. (1) The maximum body temperature predicted for any site (37.5°C) is insufficient to kill all limpets, suggesting that acute thermal stress does not set an absolute upper limit to the elevation of L. gigantea on the shore. Therefore, the upper limit must be set by behavioral responses, sublethal effects or ecological interactions. (2) Temperatures sufficient to kill limpets are reached at only a small fraction of substratum orientations and elevations and on only three occasions in 5 years. These rare predicted lethal temperatures could easily be missed in field measurements, thereby influencing the interpretation of thermal stress. (3) Body temperature is typically higher than air temperature, but maximum air temperature can nonetheless be used as an accurate predictor of maximum body temperature. Warmer air temperatures in the future may thus cause increased mortality in this intertidal species. Interpretation of the ecological effects of elevated body temperature depends strongly on laboratory measurements of thermal stress, highlighting the need for additional research on the temporal and spatial variability of thermal limits and sublethal stress. The lengthy time series of body temperatures calculated from the heat-budget model provides insight into how these physiological measurements should be conducted.


This article was originally published in the Journal of Experimental Biology Vol 209, by Company of Biologists in April 2006. The article is also available online at this link.

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