Intertidal organisms live in one of the most environmentally stressful habitats on the planet, and daily fluctuations they experience in abiotic factors (e.g., temperature, oxygen, salinity, pH) are predicted to intensify as our global climate continues to change. Elevated temperature and oxygen limitation are two dominant stressors associated with periodic air emersion in the littoral zone; both of which have substantial direct effects on metabolism in ectotherms. In the proposed study, we aim to profile the ‘metabolic phenotype’ of acorn barnacles (Balanus glandula) from different intertidal zones (low, mid, high). We define metabolic phenotype as the individual’s baseline metabolic performance, and will characterize this parameter with a comprehensive suite of biochemical (e.g., citrate synthase and lactate dehydrogenase activity, [lactate]), physiological (VO2, aerobic scope) and behavioral (e.g., feeding rate) indices of metabolism. We hypothesize that there will be predictable gradients in metabolic performance across the tidal zone directly resulting from environmental variation. With few exceptions (e.g., Stillman and Somero, 1996), data of this kind is nearly absent from the current literature. The proposed project has inherent value in its potential to identify physiological responses to emersion and climate-driven environmental variation, as well as document tidal position-dependent patterns in metabolic phenotype and capacity for plasticity that can be quantitatively integrated into predictive models of population persistence during climate change.
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