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Biol Lett. 2010 October 23; 6(5): 669–673.
Published online 2010 April 7. doi:  10.1098/rsbl.2010.0233
PMCID: PMC2936162

Non-climatic thermal adaptation: implications for species' responses to climate warming


There is considerable interest in understanding how ectothermic animals may physiologically and behaviourally buffer the effects of climate warming. Much less consideration is being given to how organisms might adapt to non-climatic heat sources in ways that could confound predictions for responses of species and communities to climate warming. Although adaptation to non-climatic heat sources (solar and geothermal) seems likely in some marine species, climate warming predictions for marine ectotherms are largely based on adaptation to climatically relevant heat sources (air or surface sea water temperature). Here, we show that non-climatic solar heating underlies thermal resistance adaptation in a rocky–eulittoral-fringe snail. Comparisons of the maximum temperatures of the air, the snail's body and the rock substratum with solar irradiance and physiological performance show that the highest body temperature is primarily controlled by solar heating and re-radiation, and that the snail's upper lethal temperature exceeds the highest climatically relevant regional air temperature by approximately 22°C. Non-climatic thermal adaptation probably features widely among marine and terrestrial ectotherms and because it could enable species to tolerate climatic rises in air temperature, it deserves more consideration in general and for inclusion into climate warming models.

Keywords: climate change, global warming, thermal adaptation

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