Metabolic rate has long been used in animal adaptation and performance studies, and individual oxygen consumption is used as proxy of metabolic rate. Stygofauna are organisms adapted to groundwater with presumably lower metabolic rates than their surface relatives. How stygofauna will cope with global temperature increase remains unpredictable. We studied the thermal acclimation and metabolic scaling with body mass of a stygobitic crustacean, Proasellus lusitanicus, in the climate change scenario. We measured oxygen consumption rates in a thermal ramp-up experiment over four assay temperatures and tested two hypotheses: (i) P. lusitanicus exhibits narrow thermal plasticity, inadequate for coping with a fast-increasing thermal regime; and (ii) oxygen consumption rates scale with the body mass by a factor close to 0.75, as commonly observed in other animals. Our results show that P. lusitanicus has low thermal plasticity in a fast-increasing thermal regime. Our data also suggest that oxygen consumption rates of this species do not follow mass-dependent scaling, potentially representing a new trait of metabolic optimization in groundwater habitats, which are often limited in food and oxygen. Species with limited dispersal capacities and rigid metabolic guilds face extinction risk due to climate change and omitting groundwater ecosystems from climate change agendas emphasizes the unprotected status of stygofauna.
Reference: Di Lorenzo T. & Reboleira A.S.P.S. (2022). Thermal acclimation and metabolic scaling of a groundwater asellid in the climate change scenario. Scientific Reports. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-20891-4