Global climate change is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity; one of the most important effects is the increase in the mean earth surface temperature. However, another but poorly studied main characteristic of global change appears to be an increase in temperature variability. Most of the current analyses of global change have focused on mean values, paying less attention to the role of the fluctuations of environmental variables. We experimentally tested the effects of environmental temperature variability on characteristics associated to the fitness (body mass balance, growth rate, and survival), metabolic rate (VCO(2)) and molecular traits (heat shock protein expression, Hsp70), in an ectotherm, the terrestrial woodlouse Porcellio laevis. Our general hypotheses are that higher values of thermal amplitude may directly affect life-history traits, increasing metabolic cost and stress responses. At first, results supported our hypotheses showing a diversity of responses among characters to the experimental thermal treatments. We emphasize that knowledge about the cellular and physiological mechanisms by which animals cope with environmental changes is essential to understand the impact of mean climatic change and variability. Also, we consider that the studies that only incorporate only mean temperatures to predict the life-history, ecological and evolutionary impact of global temperature changes present important problems to predict the diversity of responses of the organism. This is because the analysis ignores the complexity and details of the molecular and physiological processes by which animals cope with environmental variability, as well as the life-history and demographic consequences of such variability.
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