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Physiological responses to short-term thermal stress in mayfly (Neocloeon triangulifer) larvae in relation to upper thermal limits

150 150 Stroud Water Research Center

Kim, K. S., H. ChouD. H. FunkJ. K. JacksonB. W. Sweeney, and D. B. Buchwalter. 2017. Journal of Experimental Biology 

doi: 10.1242/jeb.156919


Understanding species’ thermal limits and their physiological determinants is critical in light of climate change and other human activities that warm freshwater ecosystems. Here, we ask whether oxygen limitation determines the chronic upper thermal limits in larvae of the mayfly Neocloeon triangulifer, an emerging model for ecological and physiological studies. Our experiments are based on a robust understanding of the upper acute (∼40°C) and chronic thermal limits of this species (>28°C, ≤30°C) derived from full life cycle rearing experiments across temperatures. We tested two related predictions derived from the hypothesis that oxygen limitation sets the chronic upper thermal limits: (1) aerobic scope declines in mayfly larvae as they approach and exceed temperatures that are chronically lethal to larvae; and (2) genes indicative of hypoxia challenge are also responsive in larvae exposed to ecologically relevant thermal limits. Neither prediction held true. We estimated aerobic scope by subtracting measurements of standard oxygen consumption rates from measurements of maximum oxygen consumption rates, the latter of which was obtained by treating with the metabolic uncoupling agent carbonyl cyanide-4-(trifluoromethoxy) pheylhydrazone (FCCP). Aerobic scope was similar in larvae held below and above chronic thermal limits. Genes indicative of oxygen limitation (LDH, EGL-9) were only upregulated under hypoxia or during exposure to temperatures beyond the chronic (and more ecologically relevant) thermal limits of this species (LDH). Our results suggest that the chronic thermal limits of this species are likely not driven by oxygen limitation, but rather are determined by other factors, e.g. bioenergetics costs. We caution against the use of short-term thermal ramping approaches to estimate critical thermal limits (CTmax) in aquatic insects because those temperatures are typically higher than those that occur in nature.