The American lobster is a poikilotherm that inhabits a marine environment where temperature varies over a 25 degrees C range and depends on the winds, the tides and the seasons. To determine how cardiac performance depends on the water temperature to which the lobsters are acclimated we measured lobster heart rates in vivo. The upper limit for cardiac function in lobsters acclimated to 20 degrees C is approximately 29 degrees C, 5 degrees C warmer than that measured in lobsters acclimated to 4 degrees C. Warm acclimation also slows the lobster heart rate within the temperature range from 4 to 12 degrees C. Both effects are apparent after relatively short periods of warm acclimation (3-14 days). However, warm acclimation impairs cardiac function at cold temperatures: following several hours exposure to frigid (<5 degrees C) temperatures heart rates become slow and arrhythmic in warm acclimated, but not cold acclimated, lobsters. Thus, acclimation temperature determines the thermal limits for cardiac function at both extremes of the 25 degrees C temperature range lobsters inhabit in the wild. These observations suggest that regulation of cardiac thermal tolerance by the prevailing environmental temperature protects against the possibility of cardiac failure due to thermal stress.