Abstract 1. Coastal organisms are predicted to be particularly susceptible to the impact of global warming. In this study the distribution and relative abundance of two coastal invertebrates, Coelopa frigida (Fabricius) and C. pilipes are investigated.
2. Coelopa pilipes has a more southerly distribution than C. frigida, and prefers a warmer climate. Coelopa pilipes is less resistant to sub-zero temperatures than C. frigida and its northerly distribution is probably limited by cold winter days.
3. The most recent distribution map of C. frigida and C. pilipes in northern Europe was published a decade ago and showed the northerly extent of the distribution of C. pilipes reaching the north coast of mainland Scotland but its complete absence from the Western and Northern Isles.
4. C. pilipes has now spread throughout the Western Isles and the Orkney Islands but is still absent from Shetland. There has also been an increase in the relative frequency of C. pilipes at sites harbouring coelopids on the British mainland. A similar pattern of distribution change along the west coast of Sweden is reported.
5. It is proposed that these changes have occurred primarily as a result of global warming and in particular due to the recent increase in winter temperatures. A number of other indirect effects may have also contributed to these changes, including a probable change in macroalgae distribution. The implications of these changes for the wrack bed ecosystem and at higher trophic levels are considered.