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Coping with environmental stress may involve combinations of behavioral and physiological responses. We examined potential interactions between adult musselsʼ simple behavioral repertoire – opening/closing of the shell valves – and thermal stress physiology in common-gardened individuals of three Mytilus congeners found on the West Coast of North America: two native species (M. californianus and M. trossulus) and one invasive species from the Mediterranean (M. galloprovincialis). We first continuously monitored valve behavior over three consecutive days on which body temperatures were gradually increased, either in air or in seawater. A temperature threshold effect was evident between 25 and 33°C in several behavioral measures. Mussels tended to spend much less time with the valves in a sealed position following exposure to 33°C body temperature, especially when exposed in air. This behavior could not be explained by decreases in adductor muscle glycogen (stores of this metabolic fuel actually increased in some scenarios), impacts of forced valve sealing on long-term survival (none observed in a second experiment), or loss of contractile function in the adductor muscles (individuals exhibited as many or more valve adduction movements following elevated body temperature compared with controls). We hypothesize that this reduced propensity to seal the valves following thermal extremes represents avoidance of hypoxia–reoxygenation cycles and concomitant oxidative stress. We further conjecture that prolonged valve gaping following episodes of elevated body temperature may have important ecological consequences by affecting species interactions. We then examined survival over a 90day period following exposure to elevated body temperature and/or emersion, observing ongoing mortality throughout this monitoring period. Survival varied significantly among species (M. trossulus had the lowest survival) and among experimental contexts (survival was lowest after experiencing elevated body temperature in seawater). Surprisingly, we observed no cumulative impact on survival of 3 days relative to 1 day of exposure to elevated body temperature. The delayed mortality and context-specific outcomes we observed have important implications for the design of future experiments and for interpretation of field distribution patterns of these species. Ultimately, variation in the catalog of physiological and behavioral capacities among closely related or sympatric species is likely to complicate prediction of the ecological consequences of global change and species invasions.

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© 2013. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. See link here.

Recommended Citation

Dowd, W. W., and G. N. Somero. 2013. Behavior and survival of Mytilus congeners following episodes of elevated body temperature in air and seawater. J. Exp. Biol. 216: 502-514.

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