Differential metabolic responses in bold and shy sea anemones during a simulated heatwave

Daniel K Maskrey, Shaun S Killen, Lynne U Sneddon, Kathryn E Arnold, David C C Wolfenden, Jack S Thomson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As climate change-induced heatwaves become more common, phenotypic plasticity at multiple levels is a key mitigation strategy by which organisms can optimise selective outcomes. In ectotherms, changes to both metabolism and behaviour can help alleviate thermal stress. Nonetheless, no study in any ectotherm has yet empirically investigated how changing temperatures affect among-individual differences in the associations between these traits. Using the beadlet anemone (Actinia equina), an intertidal species from a thermally heterogeneous environment, we investigated how individual metabolic rates, linked to morphotypic differences in A. equina, and boldness were related across changing temperatures. A crossed-over design and a temporal control was used to test the same individuals at a non-stressful temperature, 13oC, and under a simulated heatwave at 21oC. At each temperature, short-term repeated measurements of routine metabolic rate (RMR) and a single measurement of a repeatable boldness-related behaviour, immersion response-time (IRT), were made. Individual differences, but not morphotypic differences, were highly predictive of metabolic plasticity, and the plasticity of RMR was associated with IRT. At 13oC, shy animals had the highest metabolic rates, while at 21oC this relationship was reversed. Individuals that were bold at 13oC also exhibited the highest metabolic rates at 21oC. Additional metabolic challenges during heatwaves could be detrimental to fitness in bold individuals. Equally, lower metabolic rates at non-stressful temperatures could be necessary for optimal survival as heatwaves become more common. These results provide novel insight into the relationship between metabolic and behavioural plasticity, and its adaptive implications in a changing climate.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Early online date18 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jan 2024

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© 2024. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.

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