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Assessing Physiological and Behavioral Responses of a Small Ectotherm, Dactylochelifer silvestris Hoff 1956 (Pseudoscorpiones: Cheliferidae), to Microclimate Change

Laura M Segura Hernández, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Climate change represents an imposing threat to global biodiversity, however, most current studies addressing its impacts are based on climatic projections at large temporal and spatial scales (e.g. averages across decades and kilometres). These scales are not a faithful representation of the actual conditions that organisms might experience in their microhabitats, particularly small-bodied ectotherms, which represent the vast majority of animal species and are most vulnerable to climate warming. Among small ectotherms, arachnids are understudied in terms of their thermal biology and the impacts of climate change, despite representing an important group of predators in the microhabitats they inhabit. I evaluated how physiology and behavior of an arachnid Dactylochelifer silvestris (Pseudoscorpiones: Cheliferidae) responds to temperature changes at small temporal and spatial scales. In my first chapter, I evaluated the physiological thermal tolerance of D. silvestris through two different respirometry assays and found that all life stages have high thermal tolerances and low metabolic rates. In chapter 2, I determined what temperatures D. silvestris experiences in its microhabitat, and how those temperatures relate to its thermal tolerance and survival in all stages of its life. I found that its microhabitat temperatures are close to its physiological limit, and temperature increases by climate change will negatively impact its survival, particularly for younger nymphs. In chapter 3, I studied how temperature influences behavioral responses (movement patterns and phoresy) of nymphs and adult D. silvestris. I found that D. silvestris actively avoids warmer temperatures, and that high temperatures have a negative impact on its dispersal behavior (phoresy). Yet, in general, younger nymphs are more likely to engage in phoresy than adults, which might aid them to escape warming conditions that could compromise their survival. My research shows that temperature changes at small scales have significant impacts on the organisms that inhabit those microhabitats, but behavioral responses are important at mitigating such changes in the short term.

Subject Area

Ecology|Zoology|Physiology|Climate Change

Recommended Citation

Segura Hernández, Laura M, "Assessing Physiological and Behavioral Responses of a Small Ectotherm, Dactylochelifer silvestris Hoff 1956 (Pseudoscorpiones: Cheliferidae), to Microclimate Change" (2023). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI30528659.