Published in The Journal of Experimental Biology, Volume 213, February 26, 2010, pages 971-979.
Copyright © 2010 by Lars Tomanek. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.
The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/jeb.038034.
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 (<10°C), like the subtidal zone, activate the HSR at temperatures above those they normally experience in their habitats. They have a wider temperature range above their body temperature range over which they can synthesize Hsps. Contrary to our expectations, species from highly (in comparison with moderately) variable thermal environments have a limited acclimatory plasticity. Due to this variation in the HSR, species from stable and highly variable environments are likely to be more affected by climate change than species from moderately variable environments.