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Impacts of Temperature on O2 Consumption of the Pyrenean Brook Newt (Calotriton asper) from Populations Along an Elevational Gradient

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Journal of Thermal Biology

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Global warming impacts biodiversity worldwide, leading to species' adaptation, migration, or extinction. The population's persistence depends on the maintenance of essential activities, which is notably driven by phenotypic adaptation to local environments. Metabolic rate – that increases with temperature in ectotherms - is a key physiological proxy for the energy available to fuel individuals' activities. Cold-adapted ectotherms can exhibit a higher resting metabolism than warm-adapted ones to maintain functionality at higher elevations or latitudes, known as the metabolic cold-adaptation hypothesis. How climate change will affect metabolism in species inhabiting contrasting climates (cold or warm) is still a debate. Therefore, it is of high interest to assess the pace of metabolic responses to global warming among populations adapted to highly different baseline climatic conditions. Here, we conducted a physiological experiment in the endemic Pyrenean brook newt (Calotriton asper). We measured a proxy of standard metabolic rate (SMR) along a temperature gradient in individuals sampled among 6 populations located from 550 to 2189 m a.s.l. We demonstrated that SMR increased with temperature, but significantly diverged depending on populations' origins. The baseline and the slope of the relationship between SMR and temperature were both higher for high-elevation populations than for low-elevation populations. We discussed the stronger metabolic response observed in high-elevation populations suggesting a drop of performance in essential life activities for these individuals under current climate change. With the increase of metabolism as the climate warms, the metabolic-cold adaptation strategy selected in the past could compromise the sustainability of cold-adapted populations if short-term evolutionary responses do not allow to offset this evolutionary legacy.

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