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Abstract

In ectotherms, the temperature changes that accompany climate shifts, microhabitat changes, and species range extensions can have profound effects on the performance of organisms. The aim of this laboratory study on the terrestrial invasive gastropod Cornu aspersum was to investigate the effect of dietary calcium source on egg shell structure and heat resistance of eggs in two populations from different climatic regions of France (Western Atlantic and Mediterranean). To date no literature is known about heat stress in calcified ectothermic eggs while exposed to heat peaks using fluctuating thermal regimes and optimal humidity. In snails from the Mediterranean population fed exclusively with CaCO3 from limestone we found the thinnest egg shells and the smallest hatchlings. Limestone represents the most accessible calcium source for snails, but is, however, responsible for thinner and more mineralized egg shells (higher ash content). Hence thicker egg shells result from a low mineralized mucopolysaccharide–glycoprotein matrix that could play a nutritional role for hatchlings. Exposed to heat peaks, eggs in both populations had lower incubation time variability at the detriment of hatching rate. This study highlights the need for functional studies in this invasive species to understand the effects on population dynamics of interacting biotic and abiotic environmental factors under climate and anthropic habitat changes. J. Exp. Zool. 319A:63–73, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.