Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Biological Sciences


Dr. Lars Tomanek


Understanding species-specific physiological tolerances to environmental extremes is key in determining the factors that contribute to regulating species distribution. This understanding will aid in determining which species will manage to thrive in a changing global climate. According to the IPCC (2013) it is expected that, in the coming years, many different types of abiotic factors will change as a result of global climate change. The intertidal habitat is a model habitat for studying environmental extremes as it is located at the interface between the marine and terrestrial environments, making it one of the most stressful marine habitats. It is characterized by a 24 hr light: dark cycle and a 12.4 tidal ebb and flow that exposes animals inhabiting this habitat to a wide array of aerial-associated stressors such as changes in temperature, aerial exposure, low oxygen or hypoxic conditions and desiccation stress. Sessile organisms such as marine mussels of the genus Mytilus, are an ideal study species for studying physiological tolerance at the environmental extremes of the intertidal habitat. In particular, M. trossulus and M. galloprovincialis are an excellent study system for examining physiological tolerance at environmental extremes due to the recent change in biogeographic range of both species. M. galloprovincialis, a native of the Mediterranean, has been taking over the coast of California and has been displacing the heat sensitive native M. trossulus. The effects of salinity stress and heat stress on the physiologies of these species have been investigated by Braby and Somero (2006a and 2006b), Tomanek and Zuzow (2010) and Tomanek et al. (2012). The results of these studies indicate that the invasive M. galloprovincialis is more heat tolerant but is sensitive to hyposalinity while the reverse is true for the native M. trossulus.. The next logical environmental stress to study is low tide or aerial-emersion as both species can be found both tidally and subtidally. According to Grieshaber et al. (1994) and Müller et al. (2012) Mytilus edulis mussels have mechanisms for mitigating aerial-emersion hypoxia; however, very few studies have been performed using the study system of M. trossulus and M. galloprovincialis in regard to aerial-emersion hypoxia. This study aimed to observe the responses of both M. trossulus and M. galloprovincialis to aerial-emersion hypoxic stress or low tide. The study also looked to see if the recent habitat history (tidal or subtidal) can play a role in the response of the mussels to hypoxia. The results of the experiment indicate that the invasive M. galloprovincialis may be less sensitive to hypoxic stress when compared to the native M. trossulus. This difference in sensitivity may be due to the difference in mechanisms of energy metabolism proteins and proteostasis proteins used to mitigate the effects of hypoxic stress. Moreover, tidal acclimation appears to better prepare the mussels for subsequent aerial exposure in both species, possibly based upon the principles of stress-hardening outlined by Kültz (2005).