Most organisms experience environments that vary continuously over time, yet researchers generally study phenotypic responses to abrupt and sustained changes in environmental conditions. Gradual environmental changes, whether predictable or stochastic, might affect organisms differently than do abrupt changes. To explore this possibility, we exposed terrestrial isopods (Porcellio scaber) collected from a highly seasonal environment to four thermal treatments: (1) a constant 20 degrees C; (2) a constant 10 degrees C; (3) a steady decline from 20 degrees to 10 degrees C; and (4) a stochastic decline from 20 degrees to 10 degrees C that mimicked natural conditions during autumn. After 45 days, we measured thermal sensitivities of running speed and thermal tolerances (critical thermal maximum and chill-coma recovery time). Contrary to our expectation, thermal treatments did not affect the thermal sensitivity of locomotion; isopods from all treatments ran fastest at 33 degrees to 34 degrees C and achieved more than 80% of their maximal speed over a range of 10 degrees to 11 degrees C. Isopods exposed to a stochastic decline in temperature tolerated cold the best, and isopods exposed to a constant temperature of 20 degrees C tolerated cold the worst. No significant variation in heat tolerance was observed among groups. Therefore, thermal sensitivity and heat tolerance failed to acclimate to any type of thermal change, whereas cold tolerance acclimated more during stochastic change than it did during abrupt change.
Schuler MS, Cooper BS, Storm JJ, Sears MW, Angilletta MJ (2011) Isopods failed to acclimate their thermal sensitivity of locomotor performance during predictable or stochastic cooling. PLoS One 6(6): e20905.