Thermotolerance experiments on active and desiccated states of Ramazzottius varieornatus emphasize that tardigrades are sensitive to high temperatures

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Global warming is already having harmful effects on habitats worldwide and it is therefore important to gain an understanding of how rising temperatures may affect extant animals. Here, we investigate the tolerance to high temperatures of Ramazzottius varieornatus, a tardigrade frequently found in transient freshwater habitats. Using logistic modelling on activity we evaluate the effect of 24 hour temperature exposures on active tardigrades, with or without a short acclimation period, compared to exposures of desiccated tardigrades. We estimate that the 50% mortality temperature for non-acclimated active tardigrades is 37.1 °C, with a small but significant increase to 37.6 °C following acclimation. Desiccated specimens tolerate much higher temperatures, with an estimated 50% mortality temperature of 82.7 °C following 1 hour exposures, but with a significant decrease to 63.1 °C following 24 hour exposures. Our results show that metabolically active tardigrades are vulnerable to high temperatures, yet acclimatization could provide a tolerance increase. Desiccated specimens show a much higher resilience-exposure-time is, however, a limiting factor giving tardigrades a restricted window of high temperature tolerance. Tardigrades are renowned for their ability to tolerate extreme conditions, but their endurance towards high temperatures clearly has an upper limit-high temperatures thus seem to be their Achilles heel.

Original languageEnglish
Article number94
JournalScientific Reports
Volume10
Number of pages12
ISSN2045-2322
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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