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Journal of Experimental Biology



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Antioxidant, Body temperature, Inter-individual variation, Organic osmolytes, Rocky intertidal zone, Taurine


Biology | Marine Biology


The ability of animals to cope with environmental stress depends – in part – on past experience, yet knowledge of the factors influencing an individual's physiology in nature remains underdeveloped. We used an individual monitoring system to record body temperature and valve gaping behavior of rocky intertidal zone mussels (Mytilus californianus). Thirty individuals were selected from two mussel beds (wave-exposed and wave-protected) that differ in thermal regime. Instrumented mussels were deployed at two intertidal heights (near the lower and upper edges of the mussel zone) and in a continuously submerged tidepool. Following a 23-day monitoring period, measures of oxidative damage to DNA and lipids, antioxidant capacities (catalase activity and peroxyl radical scavenging) and tissue contents of organic osmolytes were obtained from gill tissue of each individual. Univariate and multivariate analyses indicated that inter-individual variation in cumulative thermal stress is a predominant driver of physiological variation. Thermal history over the outplant period was positively correlated with oxidative DNA damage. Thermal history was also positively correlated with tissue contents of taurine, a thermoprotectant osmolyte, and with activity of the antioxidant enzyme catalase. Origin site differences, possibly indicative of developmental plasticity, were only significant for catalase activity. Gaping behavior was positively correlated with tissue contents of two osmolytes. Overall, these results are some of the first to clearly demonstrate relationships between inter-individual variation in recent experience in the field and inter-individual physiological variation, in this case within mussel beds. Such micro-scale, environmentally mediated physiological differences should be considered in attempts to forecast biological responses to a changing environment.


This article was originally published in the Journal of Experimental Biology volume 220, issue 22 by the Company of Biologists on November 15, 2017. The article can also be found online at this link.