Lack of metabolic temperature compensation in the intertidal gastropods, Littorina saxatilis (Olivi) and L. obtusata (L.)

  • Robert F. McMahon
  • W. D. Russell-Hunter
  • David W. Aldridge
Conference paper
Part of the Developments in Hydrobiology book series (DIHY, volume 111)


Two intertidal snails, Littorina saxatilis (Olivi, 1792) (upper eulittoral fringe/maritime zone) and Littorina obtusata (Linnaeus, 1758) (lower eulittoral) were collected from a boulder shore on Nobska Point, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in July and acclimated for 15–20 days at 4 ° or 21 °C. Oxygen consumption rate (Vo2) was determined for 11– 15 subsamples of individuals at 4 °, 11 ° and 21 °C with silver/platinum oxygen electrodes. Multiple factor analysis of variance (MFANOVA) of log10 transformed values of whole animal Vo2 with log10 dry tissue weight (DTW) as a covariant revealed that increased test temperature induced a significant increase in Vo2 in both species (P<0.00001). In contrast, MFANOVA revealed that temperature acclimation did not affect Vo2 in either L. saxatilis (P = 0.35) or L. obtusata (P = 0.095). Thus, neither species displayed a capacity for the typical metabolic temperature compensation marked by an increase in Vo2 at any one test temperature in individuals acclimated to a lower temperature that is characteristic of most ectothermic animals. Lack of capacity for metabolic temperature acclimation has also been reported in other littorinid snail species, and may be characteristic of the group as a whole. Lack of capacity for respiratory temperature acclimation in these two species and other littorinids may reflect the extensive semi-diurnal temperature variation that they are exposed to in their eulittoral and eulittoral fringe/maritime zone habitats. In these habitats, any metabolic benefits derived from longer-term temperature compensation of metabolic rates are negated by extreme daily temperature fluctuations. Instead, littorinid species appear to have evolved mechanisms for immediate metabolic regulation which, in L. saxatilis and L. obtusata and other littorinids, appear to centre on a unique ability for near instantaneous suppression of metabolic rate and entrance into short-term metabolic diapause at temperatures above 20–35 °C, making typical seasonal respiratory compensation mechanisms characteristic of most ectotherms of little adaptive value to littorinid species.

Key words

acclimation Littorina obtusata Littorina saxatilis Littorinidae oxygen consumption respiration temperature effects 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert F. McMahon
    • 1
    • 2
  • W. D. Russell-Hunter
    • 1
    • 3
    • 5
  • David W. Aldridge
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Marine Biological LaboratoryWoods HoleUSA
  2. 2.Section of Comparative Physiology, Department of BiologyThe University of Texas at ArlingtonArlingtonUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologySyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyNorth Carolina Agricultural and Technical State UniversityGreensboroUSA
  5. 5.EastonUSA

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