Tracking optimal temperatures: The role of thermal history and behavioural thermoregulation in the re-distribution of spiny lobsters.

Dr Michael Oellerman1, Dr Samantha Twiname1, Dr Quinn Fitzgibbon1, Prof Gretta Pecl1

1IMAS, University Of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


Ongoing anthropogenic warming triggers numerous species to shift their natural ranges, tracking preferred temperatures to sustain fitness und ultimately survival. Animals may also track optimal temperature by vertical migrations or selection of habitat spaces that offer suitable thermal microclimates. Despite an increasing body of thermal performance data, it is still uncertain which factors drive the selection of habitats to achieve optimal body temperatures. Temperate Tasmanian waters are some of the fastest warming waters in the Southern hemisphere, with warming rates 3.8 times above the global average. Over 80 marine species have been observed to shift their range along coastal Tasmanian waters. Spiny lobsters are no exception, and given their key ecological role and importance as highly priced sea food, any re-distribution may result in major consequences for local ecosystems and fisheries. This study investigated behavioural regulation of body temperature in spiny lobsters and the role of thermal acclimation. These experiments provide insights into: 1) the role of thermal acclimation (to current seasonal water temperatures and to temperatures anticipated for 2070) in modifying temperatures preferred by spiny lobsters 2) the differences in preferred temperatures between a native and a range shifting lobster and 3) the relationship between preferred temperatures and the temperatures at which physiological performance peaks. Our results will provide a better understanding of how thermal history and behavioural thermoregulation affect the selection of novel habitats by range shifting marine species.


Before joining IMAS, Michael completed his undergraduate studies in biology at the University of Düsseldorf, Germany and further specialised in marine biology and animal physiology at the University of Bremen. He then obtained a Postgraduate Diploma in Marine Science at the University of Wellington and took a technical research position at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. He then returned to Germany to complete his Diploma and PhD at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research to study genetic and physiological processes explaining thermal adaptation of cuttlefish and Antarctic octopods. Following his PhD, Michael led a technology transfer project at Loligo Systems ApS in support by the Danish government. He was then awarded with a Research Fellowship by the German Research Foundation to study the physiological and behavioural responses of spiny lobsters and their implications to climate driven range shifts at IMAS.

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