, Volume 154, Issue 3, pp 479–484 | Cite as

Thermal limits of burrowing capacity are linked to oxygen availability and size in the Antarctic clam Laternula elliptica

  • Lloyd Samuel Peck
  • Simon Anthony Morley
  • Hans-Otto Pörtner
  • Melody Susan Clark


Animal responses to changing environments are most commonly studied in relation to temperature change. The current paradigm for marine ectotherms is that temperature limits are set through oxygen limitation. Oxygen limitation leads to progressive reductions in capacity to perform work or activity, and these are more important and proximate measures of a population’s ability to survive. Here we measured the ability of a large Antarctic clam to rebury when removed from sediment at temperatures between −1.5 and 7.5 °C and at three oxygen concentrations, 10.2, 20.5 and 27.7%. The proportion of the population capable of reburying declined rapidly and linearly with temperature from around 65% at 0 °C to 0% at 6 °C in normoxia (20.5% O2). Decreasing oxygen to 10.2% reduced temperature limits for successful burial by around 2 °C, and increasing oxygen to 27.7% raised the limits by 1–1.5 °C. There was an interactive effect of body size and temperature on burying: the temperature limits of larger individuals were lower than smaller animals. Similarly, these size limits were increased by increasing oxygen availability. Considering data for all temperatures and oxygen levels, the fastest burying rates occurred at 3 °C, which is 2 °C above the maximum summer temperature at this site.


Activity Temperature Climate change Critical temperature Aerobic scope Size 



We thank the divers and marine support team at Rothera research station, especially Matt Brown and Paul Mann. It benefited from diving support from the NERC Centre at Oban. This work is part of the BIOFLAME programme of science of the NERC British Antarctic Survey.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lloyd Samuel Peck
    • 1
  • Simon Anthony Morley
    • 1
  • Hans-Otto Pörtner
    • 2
  • Melody Susan Clark
    • 1
  1. 1.Natural Environment Research Council British Antarctic SurveyCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar- und MeeresforschungPhysiologie mariner TiereBremerhavenGermany

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