Ecological relevance of laboratory determined temperature limits: colonization potential, biogeography and resilience of Antarctic invertebrates to environmental change


D. K. A. Barnes, e-mail:


The relevance of laboratory experiments in predicting effects of climate change has been questioned, especially in Antarctica where sea temperatures are remarkably stable. Laboratory studies of Southern Ocean marine animal capacities to survive increasing temperature mainly utilize rapid temperature elevations, 100 ×–10 000 × faster than sea temperature is predicted to rise. However, due to small-scale temperature fluctuations these studies may be crucial for understanding colonization patterns and predicting survival particularly through interactions between thermal tolerance and migration. The colonization of disjunct shelves around Antarctica by larvae or adult drift requires crossing or exposure to, rapid temperature changes of up to 2–4 °C over days to weeks. Analyses of responses to warming at varying rates of temperature change in the laboratory allow better predictions of the potential species have for colonizing disjunct shelf areas (such as the Scotia Arc). Inhabiting greater diversities of localities increases the geographic and thermal range species experience. We suggest a strong link between short-term temperature tolerance, environmental range and prospects for surviving changing environments.