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Aerial exposure and body temperature of the intertidal sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima


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The sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima is a common member of intertidal communities along the west coast of North America, and can experience extended periods of increased temperature during summertime low tides. Internal body temperatures of emersed individuals of A. elegantissima were monitored in a laboratory wind tunnel and in the field, and factors influencing the anemones’ thermal experience were examined. Larger body size and aggregation with conspecifics slowed body temperature increases in controlled wind tunnel conditions. In the field, anemones in the interior of an aggregation stayed cooler than those on the edges, and microhabitat features related to light exposure and surface orientation overshadowed any direct effects of body size. In the warmest month only (July), aggregations of A. elegantissima were significantly larger at the upper limit of their distribution than they were at the mid and lower limits, suggesting aggregation in high intertidal zones may be a behavioral response to desiccation and temperature stress. As this sea anemone can host multiple species of symbiotic algae with different thermal tolerances, the ability to slow body heating may affect the type of algae hosted and thus the potential contribution of this abundant anemone to primary production in the intertidal zone.