Upper thermal tolerance plasticity in tropical amphibian species from contrasting habitats: implications for warming impact prediction.

Research paper by Monique Nouailhetas MN Simon, Pedro Leite PL Ribeiro, Carlos Arturo CA Navas

Indexed on: 11 Feb '15Published on: 11 Feb '15Published in: Journal of Thermal Biology


Tropical ectothermic species are currently depicted as more vulnerable to increasing temperatures because of the proximity between their upper thermal limits and environmental temperatures. Yet, the acclimatory capacity of thermal limits has rarely been measured in tropical species, even though they are generally predicted to be smaller than in temperate species. We compared critical thermal maximum (CTmax) and warming tolerance (WT: the difference between CTmax and maximum temperature, Tmax), as well as CTmax acclimatory capacity of toad species from the Atlantic forest (AF) and the Brazilian Caatinga (CAA), a semi-arid habitat with high temperatures. Acclimation temperatures represented the mean temperatures of AF and CAA habitats, making estimates of CTmax and WT more ecologically realistic. CAA species mean CTmax was higher compared to AF species in both acclimation treatments. Clutches within species, as well as between AF and CAA species, differed in CTmax plasticity and we discuss the potential biological meaning of these findings. We did not find a trade-off between absolute CTmax and CTmax plasticity, indicating that species can have both high CTmax and high CTmax plasticity. Although CTmax was highly correlated to Tmax, CTmax plasticity was not related to Tmax or Tmax coefficients of variation. CAA species mean WT was lower than for AF species, but still very high for all species, diverging from other studies with tropical species. This might be partially related to over-estimation of vulnerability due to under-appreciation of realistic acclimation treatments in CTmax estimation. Thus, some tropical species might not be as vulnerable to warming as previously predicted if CTmax is considered as a shifting population parameter.