Effects of Intertidal Position on Metabolism and Behavior in the Acorn Barnacle, Balanus glandula.

Academic Article


  • The intertidal zone is characterized by persistent, tidally-driven fluctuations in both abiotic (e.g., temperature, oxygen, and salinity) and biotic (e.g., food availability and predation) factors, which make this a physiologically challenging habitat for resident organisms. The relative magnitude and degree of variability of environmental stress differ between intertidal zones, with the most extreme physiological stress often being experienced by organisms in the high intertidal. Given that so many of the constantly shifting parameters in this habitat are primary drivers of metabolic rate (e.g., temperature, [O2], and food availability), we hypothesized that sessile conspecifics residing in different tidal zones would exhibit distinct "metabolic phenotypes," a term we use to collectively describe the organisms' baseline metabolic performance and capacity. To investigate this hypothesis, we collected acorn barnacles (Balanus glandula) from low, mid, and high intertidal positions in San Luis Obispo Bay, CA, and measured a suite of biochemical (whole-animal citrate synthase (CS) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity, and aerial [D-lactate]), physiological (O2 consumption rates), morphological (body size), and behavioral (e.g., cirri beat frequency and percentage of time operculum open) indices of metabolism. We found tidal zone-dependent differences in B. glandula metabolism that primarily related to anaerobic capacity, cirral activity patterns, and body size. Barnacles from the low intertidal tended to have a greater capacity for anaerobic metabolism (i.e., increased LDH activity and increased baseline [D-lactate]), have reduced cirral beating activity-and presumably reduced feeding-when submerged, and be smaller in size compared to conspecifics in the high intertidal. We did not, however, see any D-lactate accumulation in barnacles from any tidal height throughout 96 h of air exposure. This trend indicates that the enhanced capacity of low intertidal barnacles for anaerobic metabolism may have evolved to support metabolism during more prolonged episodes of emersion or during events other than emersion (e.g., coastal hypoxia and predation). There were also no significant differences in CS activity or baseline O2 consumption rates (in air or seawater at 14°C) across tidal heights, which imply that aerobic metabolic capacity may not be as sensitive to tidal position as anaerobic processes. Understanding how individuals occupying different shore heights differ in their metabolic capacity becomes increasingly interesting in the context of global climate change, given that the intertidal zone is predicted to experience even greater extremes in abiotic stress.
  • Authors

  • Horn, Kali M
  • Fournet, Michelle
  • Liautaud, Kaitlin A
  • Morton, Lynsey N
  • Cyr, Allie M
  • Handley, Alyse L
  • Dotterweich, Megan M
  • Anderson, Kyra N
  • Zippay, Mackenzie L
  • Hardy, Kristin M
  • Publication Date

  • 2021
  • Published In

  • Integr Org Biol  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • obab010
  • Volume

  • 3
  • Issue

  • 1