Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Biological Sciences


Biological Sciences


College of Science and Mathematics


Kristin Hardy

Advisor Department

Biological Sciences

Advisor College

College of Science and Mathematics


The intertidal zone is characterized by persistent, tidally-driven fluctuations in both abiotic (e.g., temperature, [O2], salinity) and biotic (e.g., food availability, predation) conditions, which makes this a very physiologically challenging habitat for resident organisms. The magnitude and degree of variability of these environmental stressors differs between intertidal zones, with the most extreme physiological stress often being experienced by organisms in the high intertidal. Given that many of the fluctuating conditions in this environment are primary drivers of metabolic rate (e.g., temperature, [O2], food availability), we hypothesized that sessile conspecifics residing in different tidal zones would exhibit distinct ‘metabolic phenotypes,’ a term we use to collectively describe the organisms’ baseline metabolic performance and capacity. To investigate this hypothesis, we collected acorn barnacles (Balanus glandula) from low, mid, and high intertidal positions in San Luis Obispo Bay, CA and measured a suite of biochemical (whole-animal citrate synthase (CS) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity, aerial [lactate]), physiological (O2 consumption rates), morphological (body size), and behavioral (e.g., cirri beat frequency, % time operculum open) indices of metabolism. We found tidal zone-dependent differences in B. glandula metabolism that primarily related to anaerobic capacity, feeding behaviors and body size. Barnacles from the low intertidal tended to have a greater capacity for anaerobic metabolism (i.e., increased LDH activity), feed less when submerged, and be smaller in size compared to conspecifics in the high intertidal. We did not, however, see differences between barnacles from different tidal heights in whole-animal [lactate] following 24h of air exposure, which indicates that the enhanced capacity of low intertidal barnacles for anaerobic metabolism may have evolved to support metabolism during more prolonged episodes of emersion (>>24h) or during events other than emersion (e.g., coastal hypoxia, predation). There were also no significant differences in CS activity or baseline oxygen consumption rates (in air or seawater at 14˚C) across tidal heights, which implies that aerobic metabolic capacity may not be as sensitive to tidal position as anaerobic processes. Understanding how individuals occupying different shore heights differ in their metabolic capacity becomes increasingly interesting in the context of global climate change, given that the intertidal zone is predicted to experience even greater extremes in abiotic stress.