Individual variation in thermal plasticity and its impact on mass-scaling

Fonti Kar*, Shinichi Nakagawa, Christopher R. Friesen, Daniel W.A. Noble

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Physiological processes vary widely across individuals and can influence how individuals respond to environmental change. Repeatability in how metabolic rate changes across temperatures (i.e. metabolic thermal plasticity) can influence mass-scaling exponents in different thermal environments. Moreover, repeatable plastic responses are necessary for reaction norms to respond to selective forces which is important for populations living in fluctuating environments. Nonetheless, only a small number of studies have explicitly quantified repeatability in metabolic plasticity, and fewer have explored how it can impact mass-scaling. We repeatedly measured standard metabolic rate of n = 42 delicate skinks Lampropholis delicata at six temperatures over the course of four months (N[observations] = 4952). Using hierarchical statistical techniques, we accounted for multi-level variation and measurement error in our data in order to obtain more precise estimates of reaction norm repeatability and mass-scaling exponents at different acute temperatures. Our results show that individual differences in metabolic thermal plasticity were somewhat consistent over time (Rslope = 0.25, 95% CI = 2.48 × 10−8 – 0.67), however estimates were associated with a large degree of error. After accounting for measurement error, which decreased steadily with temperature, we show that among individual variance remained consistent across all temperatures. Congruently, temperature specific repeatability of average metabolic rate was stable across temperatures. Cross-temperature correlations were positive but were not uniform across the reaction norm. After taking into account multiple sources of variation, our estimates for mass-scaling did not change with temperature and were in line with published values for snakes and lizards. This implies that repeatable plastic responses may promote thermal stability of scaling exponents. Our work contributes to understanding how energy expenditure scales with abiotic and biotic factors and the capacity for reaction norms to respond to selection.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1131-1142
    Number of pages12
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


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