While the impacts of extreme and rising mean temperatures are well documented, increased thermal variability associated with climate change may also threaten ectotherm fitness and survival, but remains poorly explored. Using three wild collected coprophagic species Copris elphenor, Metacatharsius opacus and Scarabaeus zambezianus, we explored the effects of thermal amplitude around the mean on thermal tolerance. Using standardized protocols, we measured traits of high- (critical thermal maxima [CTmax] and heat knockdown time [HKDT]) and -low temperature tolerance (critical thermal minima [CTmin], chill coma recovery time [CCRT] and supercooling points [SCPs]) following variable temperature pulses (δ0, δ3, δ6 and δ9C) around the mean (27C). Our results show that increased temperature variability may offset basal and plastic responses to temperature and differs across species and metrics tested. Furthermore, we also show differential effects of body mass, body water content (BWC) and body lipid content (BLC) on traits of thermal tolerance. For example, body mass significantly influenced C. elphenor and S. zambezianus CTmax and S. zambezianus HKDT but not CTmin and CCRT. BWC significantly affected M. opacus and C. elphenor CTmax and in only M. opacus HKDT, CTmin and CCRT. Similarly, BLC only had a significant effect for M opacus CTmin. These results suggest differential and species dependent effects of climate variability of thermal fitness traits. It is therefore likely that the ecological services provided by these species may be constrained in the face of climate change. This implies that, to develop more realistic predictions for the effects of climate change on insect biodiversity and ecosystem function, thermal variability is a significant determinant.
Nyamukondiwa, C., Chidawanyika, F., Machekano, H., Mutamiswa, R., Sands, B., Mgidiswa, N., & Wall, R. (2018). Climate variability differentially impacts thermal fitness traits in three coprophagic beetle species. PLoS ONE, 13(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0198610