Marine Biology

, 166:112 | Cite as

Unmasking intraspecific variation in offspring responses to multiple environmental drivers

  • Franziska Spitzner
  • Luis Giménez
  • Rebecca Meth
  • Steffen Harzsch
  • Gabriela TorresEmail author
Original Paper


Understanding organismal responses to environmental drivers is relevant to predict species capacities to respond to climate change. However, the scarce information available on intraspecific variation in the responses oversimplifies our view of the actual species capacities. We studied intraspecific variation in survival and larval development of a marine coastal invertebrate (shore crab Carcinus maenas) in response to two key environmental drivers (temperature and salinity) characterising coastal habitats. On average, survival of early larval stages (up to zoea IV) exhibited an antagonistic response by which negative effects of low salinity were mitigated at increased temperatures. Such response would be adaptive for species inhabiting coastal regions of freshwater influence under summer conditions and moderate warming. Average responses of developmental time were also antagonistic and may be categorised as a form of thermal mitigation of osmotic stress. The capacity for thermal mitigation of low-salinity stress varied among larvae produced by different females. For survival in particular, deviations did not only consist of variations in the magnitude of the mitigation effect; instead, the range of responses varied from strong effects to no effects of salinity across the thermal range tested. Quantifying intraspecific variation of such capacity is a critical step in understanding responses to climate change: it points towards either an important potential for selection or a critical role of environmental change, operating in the parental environment and leading to stress responses in larvae.



We are grateful to Julia Brinkmann, Stefan Eiler, Wladimir Escalante Alvarado, Michael Exton and Simon Wolf for their assistance in animal husbandry. We thank the students of the “Schülerlabor” (Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Helgoland, Germany) for their help in collecting the berried females at the Helgoland intertidal. We acknowledge A. Sombke for conceptual discussion and assistance during the initial phase of this project.

Author contribution

LG, SH and GT conceived the experiments. FS, RM and GT performed the experiments. FS and LG analysed the data. FS wrote the first draft as part of her doctoral dissertation. LG and GT wrote the final manuscript. All the authors improved the final manuscript. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.


This work was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, Research Training Group 2010: RESPONSE programme, work-package B3) and involved a collaboration between the working groups of S. Harzsch (Greifswald University, Germany), G. Torres (AWI-Helgoland, Germany) and L. Giménez (Bangor University, UK and AWI-Helgoland, Germany). The funding body did not influence the design of the study and collection, analysis, and interpretation of data nor the writing of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interests.

Ethical standards

The research presented in this paper complies with the guidelines from the directives 2010/63/EU of the European parliament and of the Council of 22nd September 2010 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes.

Supplementary material

227_2019_3560_MOESM1_ESM.docx (375 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 374 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cytology and Evolutionary Biology, Zoological Institute and MuseumUniversität GreifswaldGreifswaldGermany
  2. 2.Biologische Anstalt Helgoland, Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine ResearchHelgolandGermany
  3. 3.School of Ocean Sciences, College of Natural SciencesBangor UniversityBangorUK

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