Local conditions influence thermal sensitivity of pencil urchin populations (Eucidaris galapagensis) in the Galápagos Archipelago

Abstract

The responses of ectothermic organisms to changes in temperature can be modified by acclimatization or adaptation to local thermal conditions. Thus, the effect of global warming and the deleterious effects of extreme  heating events (e.g., heatwaves) on the metabolism and fitness of ectotherms can be population specific and reduced at warmer sites. We tested the hypothesis that when environmental temperature is greater, grazer populations in the Galápagos are less thermally sensitive (potentially due to acclimatization or adaptation). We quantified the acute thermal sensitivity of four populations of the pencil sea urchin, Eucidaris galapagensis, by measuring individual oxygen consumption across a range of temperatures. Thermal performance curves were estimated for each population and compared to local thermal conditions 2 months prior to collection. Results indicate that E. galapagensis populations were adapted and/or acclimatized to short-term local temperature as populations at warmer sites had substantially higher thermal tolerances. The acute thermal optimum (Topt) for the warmest and coolest site populations differed by 3 °C and the Topt was positively correlated with maximum temperature recorded at each site. Additionally, temperature-normalized respiration rate and activation energy (E) were negatively related to the maximum temperature. Understanding the temperature-dependent performance of the pencil urchin (the most significant mesograzer in this system), including its population specificity, provides insight into how herbivores and the functions they perform might be affected by further ocean heating.

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Data availability

All R data and code will be made publicly available at https://github.com/njsilbiger/GalapagosUrchins.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Galápagos National Park Directorate for granting the permit PC-25-18 to perform the research, the Galápagos Science Center for logistics and facilities support (special thanks to S. Sotamba, J. Sotamba, D. Alarcón, C. Vintimilla, A. Carrión, and S. Sarzosa), the Universidad San Francisco de Quito and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the divers and field assistants O. Gorman, B. Morse, D. Fernández, M.J. Guarderas, J.M. Álava and E. Spencer, who either participated in the research cruise or provided guidance with data management preceding its analysis. We thank Captain E. Rosero and the crew of the research vessel Queen Mabel for providing reliable access to study sites and for fieldwork support. We thank the reviewers for their valuable remarks and suggestions that contributed to improving this manuscript.

Funding

The project was funded by the National Science Foundation (Grant OCE #1737071 to JFB).

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JFB and MB designed the experiment. JFB provided the materials and funding. MB, JFB, and ISR collected the data. ISR processed the data. NJS statistically analyzed the data. ISR, JFB, NJS, and MB wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Isabel Silva Romero.

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All applicable national and institutional guidelines for sampling, care and experimental use of organisms for the study have been followed. We obtained all necessary approvals and performed all the fieldwork and data collection under the permit PC 25–18 granted by the Galápagos National Park Directorate.

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Silva Romero, I., Bruno, J.F., Silbiger, N.J. et al. Local conditions influence thermal sensitivity of pencil urchin populations (Eucidaris galapagensis) in the Galápagos Archipelago. Mar Biol 168, 34 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-021-03836-9

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