Early developmental stages of native populations of Ciona intestinalis under increased temperature are affected by local habitat history

Elizabeth A. Clutton, Gaston Alurralde, Tiago Repolho

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Temperature modulates marine ectotherm physiology, influencing survival, abundance and species distribution. While native species could be susceptible to ocean warming, thermal tolerance might favour the spread of non-native species. Determining the success of invasive species in response to climate change is confounded by the cumulative, synergistic or antagonistic effects of environmental drivers, which vary at a geographical and temporal scale. Thus, an organism's acclimation or adaptive potential could play an important evolutionary role by enabling or conditioning species tolerance to stressful environmental conditions. We investigated developmental performance of early life stages of the ascidian Ciona intestinalis (derived from populations of anthropogenically impacted and control sites) to an extreme weather event (i.e. marine heatwave). Fertilization rate, embryo and larval development, settlement, metamorphosis success and juvenile heart rate were assessed as experimental endpoints. With the exception of fertilization and heart rates, temperature influenced all analysed endpoints. C. intestinalis derived from control sites were the most negatively affected by increased temperature conditions. By contrast, C. intestinalis from anthropogenically impacted sites showed a positive response to thermal stress, with a higher proportion of larvae development, settlement and metamorphosis success being observed under increased temperature conditions. No differences were observed for heart rates between sampled populations and experimental temperature conditions. Moreover, interaction between temperature and populations was statistically significant for embryo and larvae development, and metamorphosis. We hypothesize that selection resulting from anthropogenic forcing could shape stress resilience of species in their native range and subsequently confer advantageous traits underlying their invasive potential.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb233403
Number of pages12
JournalThe Journal of Experimental Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2021


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