Calcium homeostasis and stable fatty acid composition underpin heatwave tolerance of the keystone polychaete Hediste diversicolor

Diana Madeira, Joana Filipa Fernandes, Daniel Jerónimo, Fernando Ricardo, Andreia Santos, Rosário Domingues, Ricardo Calado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, are becoming increasingly frequent, long-lasting and severe as global climate change continues, shaping marine biodiversity patterns worldwide. Increased risk of overheating and mortality across major taxa have been recurrently observed, jeopardizing the sustainability of ecosystem services. Molecular responses of species, which scale up to physiological and population responses, are determinant processes that modulate species sensitivity or tolerance to extreme weather events. Here, by integrating proteomic, fatty acid profiling and physiological approaches, we show that the tolerance of the intertidal ragworm Hediste diversicolor, a keystone species in estuarine ecosystems and an emergent blue bio-resource, to long-lasting heatwaves (24 vs 30 °C for 30 days) is shaped by calcium homeostasis, immune function and stability of fatty acid profiles. These features potentially enabled H. diversicolor to increase its thermal tolerance limit by 0.81 °C under the heatwave scenario and maintain survival. No growth trade-offs were detected, as wet weight remained stable across conditions. Biological variation of physiological parameters was lower when compared to molecular measures. Proteins showed an overall elevated coefficient of variation, although decreasing molecular variance under the heatwave scenario was observed for both proteins and fatty acids. This finding is consistent with the phenomenon of physiological canalization in extreme environments and contradicts the theory that novel conditions increase trait variation. Our results show that keystone highly valued marine polychaetes are tolerant to heatwaves, confirming the potential of H. diversicolor as a blue bio-resource and opening new avenues for sustainable marine aquaculture development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110885
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Extreme weather
  • Global change
  • Hediste diversicolor
  • Lipids
  • Proteomics
  • Thermal tolerance


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