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  1. Estimates of organismal thermal tolerance are frequently used to assess physiological risk from warming, yet the assumption that these estimates are predictive of mortality has been called into question. We tested this assumption in the cold-water-specialist frog, Ascaphus montanus . For seven populations, we used dynamic experimental assays to measure tadpole critical thermal maximum (CTmax) and measured mortality from chronic thermal stress for 3 days at different temperatures. We tested the relationship between previously estimated population CTmax and observed mortality, as well as the strength of CTmax as a predictor of mortality compared to local stream temperatures capturing varying timescales. Populations with higher CTmax experienced significantly less mortality in the warmest temperature treatment (25°C). We also found that population CTmax outperformed stream temperature metrics as the top predictor of observed mortality. These results demonstrate a clear link between CTmax and mortality from thermal stress, contributing evidence that CTmax is a relevant metric for physiological vulnerability assessments. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Nest predation influences population dynamics and is thought to exert strong selection on the evolution of avian life history. Because parental behaviors can attract the attention of nest predators, incubating birds are predicted to decrease conspicuous behaviors at the nest-site and increase incubation constancy when risks of nest predation are high. We examined whether snowy plovers Charadrius nivosus responded to predator-specific risks of nest predation, using the number of off bouts and daily nest attendance (proportion of time spent incubating) as responses. We quantified risks using predator-specific hazard rates of nest mortality, which varied daily and were based on habitat characteristics at each nest. We assessed the influence of predator-specific risks of nest mortality on incubation behaviors using an individual-centering approach, allowing us to explain variation in incubation behaviors within- and among-breeding pairs. We found increased number of off bouts and nest attendance within-breeding pairs in response to increasing risks of nest predation by foxes (Vulpes spp.) and gulls (Larus spp.), but not coyotes (Canis latrans) and common ravens (Corvus corax). Among breeding pairs across habitats, we found increased nest attendance in response to higher risks of nest predation by foxes, but not coyotes, gulls, or ravens. Breeding pairs differed in the amount of behavioral plasticity they exhibited in response to risks of nest predation. Our results suggest that risks of nest predation differentially influence behavioral responses of snowy plovers depending on the predator species, and the amount of behavioral plasticity may depend on the characteristics of breeding adults.

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  4. Synopsis

    It has long been known that the outcome of species interactions depends on the environmental context in which they occur. Climate change research has sparked a renewed interest in context-dependent species interactions because rapidly changing abiotic environments will cause species interactions to occur in novel contexts and researchers must incorporate this in their predictions of species’ responses to climate change. Here, we argue that predicting how the environment will alter the outcome of species interactions requires an integrative biology approach that focuses on the traits, mechanisms, and processes that bridge disciplines such as physiology, biomechanics, ecology, and evolutionary biology. Specifically, we advocate for quantifying how species differ in their tolerance and performance to both environmental challenges independent of species interactions, and in interactions with other species as a function of the environment. Such an approach increases our understanding of the mechanisms underlying outcomes of species interactions across different environmental contexts. This understanding will help determine how the outcome of species interactions affects the relative abundance and distribution of the interacting species in nature. A general theme that emerges from this perspective is that species are unable to maintain high levels of performance across different environmental contexts because of trade-offs between physiological tolerance to environmental challenges and performance in species interactions. Thus, an integrative biology paradigm that focuses on the trade-offs across environments, the physiological mechanisms involved, and how the ecological context impacts the outcome of species interactions provides a stronger framework to understand why species interactions are context dependent.

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  5. Abstract

    Adaptive plasticity in thermal tolerance traits may buffer organisms against changing temperatures, making such responses of particular interest in the face of global climate change. Although population variation is integral to the evolvability of this trait, many studies inferring proxies of physiological vulnerability from thermal tolerance traits extrapolate data from one or a few populations to represent the species. Estimates of physiological vulnerability can be further complicated by methodological effects associated with experimental design. We evaluated how populations varied in their acclimation capacity (i.e., the magnitude of plasticity) for critical thermal maximum (CTmax) in two species of tailed frogs (Ascaphidae), cold‐stream specialists. We used the estimates of acclimation capacity to infer physiological vulnerability to future warming. We performed CTmax experiments on tadpoles from 14 populations using a fully factorial experimental design of two holding temperatures (8 and 15°C) and two experimental starting temperatures (8 and 15°C). This design allowed us to investigate the acute effects of transferring organisms from one holding temperature to a different experimental starting temperature, as well as fully acclimated responses by using the same holding and starting temperature. We found that most populations exhibited beneficial acclimation, where CTmax was higher in tadpoles held at a warmer temperature, but populations varied markedly in the magnitude of the response and the inferred physiological vulnerability to future warming. We also found that the response of transferring organisms to different starting temperatures varied substantially among populations, although accounting for acute effects did not greatly alter estimates of physiological vulnerability at the species level or for most populations. These results underscore the importance of sampling widely among populations when inferring physiological vulnerability, as population variation in acclimation capacity and thermal sensitivity may be critical when assessing vulnerability to future warming.

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  6. Rapid species turnover in tropical mountains has fascinated biologists for centuries. A popular explanation for this heightened beta diversity is that climatic stability at low latitudes promotes the evolution of narrow thermal tolerance ranges, leading to local adaptation, evolutionary divergence and parapatric speciation along elevational gradients. However, an emerging consensus from research spanning phylogenetics, biogeography and behavioural ecology is that this process rarely, if ever, occurs. Instead, closely related species typically occupy a similar elevational niche, while species with divergent elevational niches tend to be more distantly related. These results suggest populations have responded to past environmental change not by adapting and diverging in place, but instead by shifting their distributions to tightly track climate over time. We argue that tropical species are likely to respond similarly to ongoing and future climate warming, an inference supported by evidence from recent range shifts. In the absence of widespread in situ adaptation to new climate regimes by tropical taxa, conservation planning should prioritize protecting large swaths of habitat to facilitate movement. 
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  7. null (Ed.)
  8. Abstract

    1. Critical thermal limits represent an important component of an organism's capacity to cope with future temperature changes. Understanding the drivers of variation in these traits may uncover patterns in physiological vulnerability to climate change. Local temperature extremes have emerged as a major driver of thermal limits, although their effects can be mediated by the exploitation of fine‐scale spatial variation in temperature through behavioural thermoregulation.

    2. Here, we investigated thermal limits along elevation gradients within and between two cold‐water frog species (Ascaphusspp.), one with a coastal distribution (A. truei) and the other with a continental range (A. montanus). We quantified thermal limits for over 700 tadpoles, representing multiple populations from each species. We combined local temporal and fine‐scale spatial temperature data to quantify local thermal landscapes (i.e., thermalscapes), including the opportunity for behavioural thermoregulation.

    3. Lower thermal limits for either species could not be reached experimentally without the water freezing, suggesting that cold tolerance is <0.3°C. By contrast, upper thermal limits varied among populations, but this variation only reflected local temperature extremes inA. montanus, perhaps as a consequence of the greater variation in stream temperatures across its range. Lastly, we found minimal fine‐scale spatial variability in temperature, suggesting limited opportunity for behavioural thermoregulation and thus increased vulnerability to warming for all populations.

    4. By quantifying local thermalscapes, we uncovered different trends in the relative vulnerability of populations across elevation for each species. InA. truei, physiological vulnerability decreased with elevation, whereas inA. montanus, all populations were equally physiologically vulnerable. These results highlight how similar environments can differentially shape physiological tolerance and patterns of vulnerability of species, and in turn impact their vulnerability to future warming.

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  9. Synopsis The concept of trade-offs permeates our thinking about adaptive evolution because they are exhibited at every level of biological organization, from molecular and cellular processes to organismal and ecological functions. Trade-offs inevitably arise because different traits do not occur in isolation, but instead are imbedded within complex, integrated systems that make up whole organisms. The genetic and mechanistic underpinning of trade-offs can be found in the pleiotropic nodes that occur in the biological pathways shared between traits. Yet, often trade-offs are only understood as statistical correlations, limiting the ability to evaluate the interplay between how selection and constraint interact during adaptive evolution. Here, we first review the classic paradigms in which physiologists and evolutionary biologists have studied trade-offs and highlight the ways in which network and molecular pathway approaches unify these paradigms. We discuss how these approaches allow researchers to evaluate why trade-offs arise and how selection can act to overcome trait correlations and evolutionary constraints. We argue that understanding how the conserved molecular pathways are shared between different traits and functions provides a conceptual framework for evolutionary biologists, physiologists, and molecular biologists to meaningfully work together toward the goal of understanding why correlations and trade-offs occur between traits. We briefly highlight the melanocortin system and the hormonal control of osmoregulation as two case studies where an understanding of shared molecular pathways reveals why trade-offs occur between seemingly unrelated traits. While we recognize that applying such approaches poses challenges and limitations particularly in the context of natural populations, we advocate for the view that focusing on the biological pathways responsible for trade-offs provides a unified conceptual context accessible to a broad range of integrative biologists. 
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