Thermal tolerance limits and physiological traits as indicators of Hediste diversicolor's acclimation capacity to global and local change drivers

Joana Filipa Fernandes, Ricardo Calado, Daniel Jerónimo, Diana Madeira

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Global projections predict significant increases in ocean temperature and changes in ocean chemistry, including salinity variations by 2100. This has led to a substantial interest in the study of thermal ecophysiology, as temperature is a major factor shaping marine ectotherm communities. However, responses to temperature may be influenced by other factors such as salinity, highlighting the relevance of multiple stressor studies. In the present work, we experimentally evaluated the thermal tolerance of the marine ragworm Hediste diversicolor under predicted global change scenarios. Organisms were subjected to an experimental trial under control (24 °C), and two temperature treatment scenarios (ocean warming +3 °C – (27 °C) and heat wave +6 °C – (30 °C)), combined with salinity variations (20 and 30) in a full factorial design for 29 days. Environmental data from the field were collected during 2019 and 2020. At day 30 post exposure, upper thermal limits (Critical Thermal Maximum - CTMax), thermal safety margins (TSM) and acclimation capacity were measured. Higher acclimation temperatures led to higher thermal tolerance limits, confirming that H. diversicolor features some physiological plasticity, acclimation capacity and a positive thermal safety margin. This margin was greater considering in situ temperature data from 2019 than maximum temperatures for 2020 (CTMax > maximum habitat temperature–MHT). Moreover, smaller organisms displayed higher upper thermal limits suggesting that thermal tolerance is size dependent. Ragworms subjected to higher salinity also showed a higher CTMax than those acclimated to lower salinity. However, temperature and salinity showed an additive effect on CTMax, as no significant interaction was detected. We conclude that H. diversicolor can easily acclimate to increased water temperature, independently of salinity variations. Given the key role of ragworms in food webs in estuaries and coastal lagoons, substrate bioturbation and aquaculture, this information is relevant to support conservation actions, optimize culture protocols and identify thermal resistant strains.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103577
Number of pages9
JournalJournal Of Thermal Biology
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • Critical thermal maximum
  • Multiple stressors
  • Ocean warming
  • Physiology
  • Polychaete


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