Heat tolerance and physiological plasticity in the Antarctic collembolan, Cryptopygus antarcticus, and mite, Alaskozetes antarcticus

M.J. Everatt, J.S. Bale, S.A.L. Hayward, P. Convey, M.R. Worland

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Polar amplification of global warming has led to an average 2°C rise in air temperatures in parts of the polar regions in the last 50 years. Poikilothermic ectotherms that are found in these regions, such as Collembola and mites, may therefore be put under pressure by changing environmental conditions. However, it has also been suggested that the thermal sensitivity of invertebrates declines with higher latitudes and, therefore, that polar ectotherms may not be at risk. In the current study, the heat tolerance and physiological plasticity to heat stress of two well-studied Antarctic invertebrates, the collembolan, Cryptopygus antarcticus, and the mite, Alaskozetes antarcticus, were investigated. Both species showed considerable heat tolerance, with each having an Upper Lethal Temperature (ULT) above 35°C (1h exposure). These species were also able to survive for over 43d at 10°C and for periods of 5-20min at 40°C. Across all experimental procedures, A. antarcticus possessed a somewhat greater level of heat tolerance than C. antarcticus. Water loss during short duration exposures did not differ between the two species at 30, 35 and 40°C, suggesting that the greater tolerance of A. antarcticus over this timescale was not due to higher desiccation resistance. Physiological plasticity was investigated by testing for Rapid Heat Hardening (RHH) and long-term acclimation. RHH was observed to a small degree in both species at a warming rate of 0.5°Cmin, and also 0.2°Cmin in A. antarcticus alone. Longer-term acclimation (1 week at 10°C) did not enhance the heat tolerance of either species. Even with this limited physiological plasticity, the results of this study indicate that C. antarcticus and A. antarcticus have capacity in their heat tolerance to cope with current and future environmental extremes of high temperature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-271
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Thermal Biology
Issue number5
Early online date20 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013


  • Global warming
  • Rapid heat hardening
  • Acclimation
  • Thermal sensitivity
  • Invertebrate


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