Testing the beneficial acclimation hypothesis and its alternatives for locomotor performance

19 April 2007

The beneficial acclimation hypothesis ( BAH) is controversial. While physiological work all but assumes that the BAH is true, recent studies have shown that support for the BAH is typically wanting. The latter have been criticized for assessing the benefits of developmental plasticity rather than acclimation. Here we examine the BAH within a strong inference framework for five congeneric species of ameronothroid oribatid mites that occupy marine to terrestrial habitats. We do so by assessing responses of maximum speed, optimum temperature, and performance breadth, measured from - 10 degrees C to 35 degrees C, to four treatment temperatures ( 0 degrees, 5 degrees, 10 degrees, and 15 degrees C). We show that the BAH and its alternatives often make similar empirical predictions. Weak beneficial acclimation is characteristic of one of the more marine species. In the other two upper-shore and marine species, evidence exists for deleterious acclimation and the colder-is-better hypothesis. In the two fully terrestrial species, there is no plasticity. Lack of plasticity is beneficial when cue reliability is low or costs of plasticity are high, and the former seems plausible in terrestrial habitats. However, weak plasticity in the uppershore/marine species and the absence of plasticity in the terrestrial species might also be a consequence of phylogenetic constraint.