Intertidal zone organisms may be among the most vulnerable groups of organisms to global climate change (GCC) since it is hypothesized that these organisms have already maximized their capacity to tolerate environmental change. Much of our understanding of the thermal physiology of intertidal organisms comes from single acute heat shock studies of organisms submerged in water despite the fact that these organisms more typically experience consecutive sublethal heat stresses that vary in magnitude while the organisms are aerially emersed. Using the fingered limpet, Lottia digitalis, research in our lab is focused on understanding how intertidal organisms integrate the complexities in the thermal environment into their capacity to cope with changes in mean temperature as well as respond to extreme heat waves. To date our research has shown that aerial exposure, inducible stress tolerance and stochastic vs. predictable changes in temperature affect the thermal physiology of L. digitalis. Our results suggest that previous studies have overlooked important mechanisms underlying thermal tolerance of intertidal animals and that research that incorporates the biophysical characterization of the stochasticity of the thermal environment is critical if we are to forecast the impacts of GCC on intertidal communities.
Bjelde and Todgham 2013. Thermal physiology of the fingered limpet Lottia digitalis under emersion and immersion.