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The trade-off between heat tolerance and metabolic cost drives the bimodal life strategy at the air-water interface


Marco Fusi

Stefano Cannicci

Daniele Daffonchio

Bruce Mostert


Folco Giomi


The principle of oxygen and capacity limitation of thermal tolerance in ectotherms suggests that the long-term upper limits of an organism's thermal niche are equivalent to the upper limits of the organism's functional capacity for oxygen provision to tissues. Air-breathing ectotherms show wider thermal tolerances, since they can take advantage of the higher availability of oxygen in air than in water. Bimodal species move from aquatic to aerial media and switch between habitats in response to environmental variations such as cyclical or anomalous temperature fluctuations. Here we tested the prediction that bimodal species cope better with thermal stress than truly aquatic species using the crab Pachygrapsus marmoratus as a model species. When in water, oxygen consumption rates of P. marmoratus acutely rise during warming. Beyond a temperature threshold of 23 °C the crab's aerobic metabolism in air remains lower than in water. In parallel, the haemolymph oxygen partial pressure of submerged animals progressive decreases during warming, while it remains low but constant during emersion. Our results demonstrate the ability of a bimodal breathing ectotherm to extend its thermal tolerance during air-breathing, suggesting that there are temperature-related physiological benefits during the evolution of the bimodal life style.


Fusi, M., Cannicci, S., Daffonchio, D., Mostert, B., Pörtner, H., & Giomi, F. (2016). The trade-off between heat tolerance and metabolic cost drives the bimodal life strategy at the air-water interface. Scientific Reports, 6(1),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 14, 2015
Online Publication Date Jan 13, 2016
Publication Date 2016-05
Deposit Date Apr 22, 2020
Publicly Available Date Apr 23, 2020
Journal Scientific Reports
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Issue 1
Public URL


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