University Of Tasmania
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Temperature variability interacts with mean temperature to influence the predictability of microbial phenotypes

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 13:08 authored by Fu, F-X, Tschitschko, B, Hutchins, DA, Larsson, ME, Kirralee BakerKirralee Baker, McInnes, A, Kahlke, T, Verma, A, Murray, SA, Doblin, MA

Despite their relatively high thermal optima (Topt), tropical taxa may be particularly vulnerable to a rising baseline and increased temperature variation because they live in relatively stable temperatures closer to their Topt. We examined how microbial eukaryotes with differing thermal histories responded to temperature fluctuations of different amplitudes (0 control, +-2, +-4Celsius degree) around mean temperatures below or above their Topt. Cosmopolitan dinoflagellates were selected based on their distinct thermal traits and included two species of the same genus (tropical and temperate Coolia spp.), and two strains of the same species maintained at different temperatures for >500 generations (tropical Amphidinium massartii control temperature and high temperature, CT and HT, respectively). There was a universal decline in population growth rate under temperature fluctuations, but strains with narrower thermal niche breadth (temperate Coolia and HT) showed ~10% greater reduction in growth. At suboptimal mean temperatures, cells in the cool phase of the fluctuation stopped dividing, fixed less carbon (C) and had enlarged cell volumes that scaled positively with elemental C, N, and P and C:Chlorophyll-a. However, at a supra-optimal mean temperature, fixed C was directed away from cell division and novel trait combinations developed, leading to greater phenotypic diversity. At the molecular level, heat-shock proteins, and chaperones, in addition to transcripts involving genome rearrangements, were upregulated in CT and HT during the warm phase of the supra-optimal fluctuation (30 +- 4Celsius degree), a stress response indicating protection. In contrast, the tropical Coolia species upregulated major energy pathways in the warm phase of its supra-optimal fluctuation (25 +- 4Celsius degree), indicating a broadscale shift in metabolism. Our results demonstrate divergent effects between taxa and that temporal variability in environmental conditions interacts with changes in the thermal mean to mediate microbial responses to global change, with implications for biogeochemical cycling.


Publication title

Global Change Biology










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Place of publication

9600 Garsington Rd, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox4 2Dg

Rights statement

© 2022. The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) License, ( which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment and management of coastal and estuarine ecosystems; Assessment and management of benthic marine ecosystems