Chronic environmental stress enhances tolerance to seasonal gradual warming in marine mussels
In global climate change scenarios, seawater warming acts in concert with multiple stress sources, which may enhance the susceptibility of marine biota to thermal stress. Here, the responsiveness to seasonal gradual warming was investigated in temperate mussels from a chronically stressed population in comparison with a healthy one. Stressed and healthy mussels were subjected to gradual temperature elevation for 8 days (1°C per day; fall: 16–24°C, winter: 12–20°C, summer: 20–28°C) and kept at elevated temperature for 3 weeks. Healthy mussels experienced thermal stress and entered the time-limited survival period in the fall, became acclimated in winter and exhibited sublethal damage in summer. In stressed mussels, thermal stress and subsequent health deterioration were elicited in the fall but no transition into the critical period of time-limited survival was observed. Stressed mussels did not become acclimated to 20°C in winter, when they experienced low-to-moderate thermal stress, and did not experience sublethal damage at 28°C in summer, showing instead signs of metabolic rate depression. Overall, although the thermal threshold was lowered in chronically stressed mussels, they exhibited enhanced tolerance to seasonal gradual warming, especially in summer. These results challenge current assumptions on the susceptibility of marine biota to the interactive effects of seawater warming and pollution.