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Title: Long‐term exposure to higher temperature increases the thermal sensitivity of grazer metabolism and movement

Ecological studies of global warming impacts have many constraints. Organisms are often exposed to higher temperatures for short periods of time, probably underestimating their ability to acclimate or adapt relative to slower but real rates of warming. Many studies also focus on a limited number of traits and miss the multifaceted effects that warming may have on organisms, from physiology to behaviour. Organisms exhibit different movement traits, some of which are primarily driven by metabolic processes and others by decision‐making, which should influence the extent to which temperature affects them.

We collected snails from streams that have been differentially heated by geothermal activity for decades to determine how long‐term exposure to different temperatures affected their metabolism and movement. Additionally, we collected snails from a cold stream (5°C) and measured their metabolism and movement at higher temperatures (short‐term exposure). We used respirometry to measure metabolic rates and automated in situ image‐based tracking to quantify several movement traits from 5 to 21°C.

Long‐term exposure to higher temperatures resulted in a greater thermal sensitivity of metabolic rate compared to snails exposed for short durations, highlighting the need for caution when conducting acute temperature exposures in global warming research. Average speed, which is largely driven by metabolism, also increased more with temperature for long‐term exposure compared to short‐term exposure. Movement traits we interpret as more decision‐based, such as time spent moving and trajectory shape, were less affected by temperature. Step length increased and step angle decreased at higher temperatures for both long‐ and short‐term exposure, resulting in overall straighter trajectories. The power‐law exponent of the step length distributions and fractal dimension of trajectories were independent of temperature, however, suggesting that snails retained the same movement strategy.

The observed changes in snail movement at higher temperatures should lead to higher encounter rates and more efficient searching, providing a behavioural mechanism for stronger plant–herbivore interactions in warmer environments. Our research is among the first to show that temperature has contrasting effects on different movement traits, which may be determined by the metabolic contribution to those behaviours.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Animal Ecology
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 833-844
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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