Population variation in the thermal response to climate change reveals differing sensitivity in a benthic shark

Connor R. Gervais, Charlie Huveneers, Jodie L. Rummer, Culum Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Many species with broad distributions are exposed to different thermal regimes which often select for varied phenotypes. This intraspecific variation is often overlooked but may be critical in dictating the vulnerability of different populations to environmental change. We reared Port Jackson shark (Heterodontus portusjacksoni) eggs from two thermally discrete populations (i.e. Jervis Bay and Adelaide) under each location's present-day mean temperatures, predicted end-of-century temperatures and under reciprocal-cross conditions to establish intraspecific thermal sensitivity. Rearing temperatures strongly influenced ṀO2Max and critical thermal limits, regardless of population, indicative of acclimation processes. However, there were significant population-level effects, such that Jervis Bay sharks, regardless of rearing temperature, did not exhibit differences in ṀO2Rest, but under elevated temperatures exhibited reduced maximum swimming activity with step-wise increases in temperature. In contrast, Adelaide sharks reared under elevated temperatures doubled their ṀO2Rest, relative to their present-day temperature counterparts; however, maximum swimming activity was not influenced. With respect to reciprocal-cross comparisons, few differences were detected between Jervis Bay and Adelaide sharks reared under ambient Jervis Bay temperatures. Similarly, juveniles (from both populations) reared under Adelaide conditions had similar thermal limits and swimming activity (maximum volitional velocity and distance) to each other, indicative of conserved acclimation capacity. However, under Adelaide temperatures, the ṀO2Rest of Jervis Bay sharks was greater than that of Adelaide sharks. This indicates that the energetics of cooler water population (Adelaide) is likely more thermally sensitive than that of the warmer population (Jervis Bay). While unique to elasmobranchs, these data provide further support that by treating species as static, homogeneous populations, we ignore the impacts of thermal history and intraspecific variation on thermal sensitivity. With climate change, intraspecific variation will manifest as populations move, demographics change or extirpations occur, starting with the most sensitive populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-120
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number1
Early online date28 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • acclimation
  • common garden experiment
  • elasmobranch
  • intraspecific variation
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • respirometry
  • swimming behaviour
  • thermal tolerance


Dive into the research topics of 'Population variation in the thermal response to climate change reveals differing sensitivity in a benthic shark'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this