The preferential synthesis of heat shock proteins (Hsps) in response to thermal stress [the heat shock response (HSR)] has been shown to vary in species that occupy different thermal environments. A survey of case studies of aquatic (mostly marine) organisms occupying stable thermal environments at all latitudes, from polar to tropical, shows that they do not in general respond to heat stress with an inducible HSR. Organisms that occupy highly variable thermal environments (variations up to >20°C), like the intertidal zone, induce the HSR frequently and within the range of body temperatures they normally experience, suggesting that the response is part of their biochemical strategy to occupy this thermal niche. The highest temperatures at which these organisms can synthesize Hsps are only a few degrees Celsius higher than the highest body temperatures they experience. Thus, they live close to their thermal limits and any further increase in temperature is probably going to push them beyond those limits. In comparison, organisms occupying moderately variable thermal environments (



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