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Rates of warming and the global sensitivity of shallow water marine invertebrates to elevated temperature

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 March 2014

S.A. Morley*
British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB3 0ET, UK
A.E. Bates
National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton Waterfront Campus, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK
M Lamare
Department of Marine Science, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
J Richard
Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Institut Universitaire Européen de la Mer, Laboratoire de Sciences de l'Environnement Marin (UMR CNRS 6539), Technopôle Brest-Iroise, Place Copernic, F-29280 Plouzané, France
K.D. Nguyen
Tropical Marine Science Institute, National University of Singapore, 14 Kent Ridge Road, Singapore 119223, Singapore
J Brown
Environmental Management Division, Environment and Natural Resources Directorate, St Helena Government, Essex House, Jamestown, St Helena STHL 1ZZ
L.S. Peck
British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB3 0ET, UK
Correspondence should be addressed to: S. A. Morley, British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB3 0ET, UK email:


Assessing the sensitivity of ectotherms to variability in their environment is a key challenge, especially in the face of rapid warming of the Earth's surface. Comparing the upper temperature limits of species from different regions, at different rates of warming, has recently been developed as a method to estimate the long term sensitivity of shallow marine fauna. This paper presents the first preliminary data from four tropical Ascension Island, five temperate New Zealand and six Antarctic McMurdo Sound species. The slopes and intercepts of these three assemblages fitted within the overall pattern for previously measured assemblages from high temperature tolerance in tropical fauna and a shallow slope, to low temperature tolerance and a steep slope in Antarctic fauna. Despite the tropical oceanic Ascension Island being subject to upwelling events, the fit of the intercept and slope within the overall assemblage pattern suggests that the upwelling is sufficiently predictable for the fauna to have evolved the plasticity to respond. This contrasts with previously analysed species from the Peruvian upwelling region, which had a steeper slope than other temperate fauna. The speed and capacity of faunal assemblages to acclimatize their physiology is likely to determine the shape of the rates of warming relationship, and will be a key mechanism underpinning vulnerability to climate warming.

Research Article
Copyright © Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2014 

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