Rate dynamics of ectotherm responses to thermal stress

05 June 2019

Critical thermal limits (CTLs) show much variation associated with the experimental rate of temperature change used in their estimation. Understanding the full range of variation in rate effects on CTLs and their underlying basis is thus essential if methodological noise is not to overwhelm or bias the ecological signal. We consider the effects of rate variation from multiple intraspecific assessments and provide a comprehensive empirical analysis of the rate effects on both the critical thermal maximum (CTmax) and critical thermal minimum (CTmin) for 47 species of ectotherms, exploring which of the available theoretical models best explains this variation. We find substantial interspecific variation in rate effects, which takes four different forms (increase, decline, no change, mixed), with phylogenetic signal in effects on CTmax, but not CTmin. Exponential and zero exponential failure rate models best explain the rate effects on CTmax. The majority of the empirical rate variation in CTmin could not be explained by the failure rate models. Our work demonstrates that rate effects cannot be ignored in comparative analyses, and suggests that incorporation of the failure rate models into such analyses is a useful further avenue for exploration of the fundamental basis and implications of such variation.