Marine Biology

, Volume 151, Issue 5, pp 1823–1830 | Cite as

Slowest of the slow: latitudinal insensitivity of burrowing capacity in the bivalve Laternula

  • S. A. MorleyEmail author
  • L. S. Peck
  • K. S. Tan
  • S. M. Martin
  • H. O. Pörtner
Research Article


Low temperature limits the rate of biochemical reactions and aerobic scopes of cold water ectotherms. To compensate for this limiting effect, animals living in cold environments often possess physiological or morphological adaptations to maintain vital functions. Cross-latitudinal comparison of aerobic capacities is one method to test which factors constrain activity in thermally distinct environments particularly when congeneric studies are carried out on related species with conservative ecology and habitat. Burrowing is a major aerobic activity of bivalve molluscs that is described here for the first time for the tropical mangrove species Laternula truncata and Laternula boschasina and then compared with their Antarctic congener Laternula elliptica. About 80% of L. truncata (16.3–46.1 mm shell length) and 63% of L. boschasina (11.3–27.7 mm shell length) buried within 24 h at 28°C. The burrowing rate index (BRI = [3√wet weight/time to bury]×104) ranged between 1.1 and 20.2 for L. boschasina and 1.1–32.9 for L. truncata. These values are 2–3 orders of magnitude less than other tropical bivalve molluscs and are amongst the lowest recorded for any bivalve. Comparisons with the Antarctic L. elliptica showed little or no differences in BRI (Q10 of 1.0–1.2 for specimens of the same size). This is contrary to the general pattern over a wide range of bivalves, where BRI increases with a Q10 of between 2.9 and 6.4 between high latitudes and the equator. L. elliptica has 25–30% longer relative foot length than tropical congeners of the same size, which could be a morphological adaptation compensating for reduced burrowing speeds in a colder environment. Burrowing rates within the genus Laternula could, however, also be maintained by differing habitat, ecological and physiological constraints on burrowing capability.


Bivalve Shell Length Temperature Compensation Mitochondrial Density Aerobic Scope 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank the staff of Biodiversity Centre and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, National Parks Board, Singapore for facilitating this project. S.A.M was funded by Antarctic Funding Initiative grant 2/34 awarded to L.S.P. The studies undertaken comply with the laws of UK and Singapore. Two anonymous reviewers provided comments which greatly improved this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. A. Morley
    • 1
    Email author
  • L. S. Peck
    • 1
  • K. S. Tan
    • 2
  • S. M. Martin
    • 3
  • H. O. Pörtner
    • 4
  1. 1.Natural Environment Research CouncilBritish Antarctic Survey, High CrossCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Tropical Marine Science InstituteNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  3. 3.CambsUK
  4. 4.Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine ResearchBremerhavenGermany

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