Coping with daily thermal variability: behavioural performance of an ectotherm model in a warming world

PLoS One. 2014 Sep 10;9(9):e106897. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106897. eCollection 2014.


Global climate change poses one of the greatest threats to species persistence. Most analyses of the potential biological impacts have focused on changes in mean temperature, but changes in thermal variance will also impact organisms and populations. We assessed the effects of acclimation to daily variance of temperature on dispersal and exploratory behavior in the terrestrial isopod Porcellio laevis in an open field. Acclimation treatments were 24 ± 0, 24 ± 4 and 24 ± 8 °C. Because the performance of ectotherms relates nonlinearly to temperature, we predicted that animals acclimated to a higher daily thermal variation should minimize the time exposed in the centre of open field, --i.e. increase the linearity of displacements. Consistent with our prediction, isopods acclimated to a thermally variable environment reduce their exploratory behaviour, hypothetically to minimize their exposure to adverse environmental conditions. This scenario as well as the long latency of animals after releases acclimated to variable environments is consistent with this idea. We suggested that to develop more realistic predictions about the biological impacts of climate change, one must consider the interactions between the mean and variance of environmental temperature on animals' performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Global Warming*
  • Isopoda / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Temperature*
  • Time Factors

Grant support

This study was funded by Fondo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología grant #1130015 and Centro de Ecología Aplicada y Sustentabilidad, Line 3 to FB. The authors thank L. A. Ebensperger and F. M. Jaksic for helpful comments. Experimental protocols followed the rules of The Ethics and Biosafety Committee of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the Catholic University of Chile, permit No. CBB-100/2012. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.