Macroscale patterns in body size of intertidal crustaceans provide insights on climate change effects

Eduardo Jaramillo, Jenifer E. Dugan, David M. Hubbard, Heraldo Contreras, Cristian Duarte, Emilio Acuña, David S. Schoeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Predicting responses of coastal ecosystems to altered sea surface temperatures (SST) associated with global climate change, requires knowledge of demographic responses of individual species. Body size is an excellent metric because it scales strongly with growth and fecundity for many ectotherms. These attributes can underpin demographic as well as community and ecosystem level processes, providing valuable insights for responses of vulnerable coastal ecosystems to changing climate. We investigated contemporary macroscale patterns in body size among widely distributed crustaceans that comprise the majority of intertidal abundance and biomass of sandy beach ecosystems of the eastern Pacific coasts of Chile and California, USA. We focused on ecologically important species representing different tidal zones, trophic guilds and developmental modes, including a highshore macroalga-consuming talitrid amphipod (Orchestoidea tuberculata), two mid-shore scavenging cirolanid isopods (Excirolana braziliensis and E. hirsuticauda), and a low-shore suspension-feeding hippid crab (Emerita analoga) with an amphitropical distribution. Significant latitudinal patterns in body sizes were observed for all species in Chile (21° - 42°S), with similar but steeper patterns in Emerita analoga, in California (32°- 41°N). Sea surface temperature was a strong predictor of body size (-4% to -35% °C-1) in all species. Beach characteristics were subsidiary predictors of body size. Alterations in ocean temperatures of even a few degrees associated with global climate change are likely to affect body sizes of important intertidal ectotherms, with consequences for population demography, life history, community structure, trophic interactions, food-webs, and indirect effects such as ecosystem function. The consistency of results for body size and temperature across species with different life histories, feeding modes, ecological roles, and microhabitats inhabiting a single widespread coastal ecosystem, and for one species, across hemispheres in this space-fortime substitution, suggests predictions of ecosystem responses to thermal effects of climate change may potentially be generalised, with important implications for coastal conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0177116
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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