Sensitivity to ocean warming is generally expected to be lower in populations from more heterogeneous thermal environments, owing to greater phenotypic plasticity and/or genotype selection. While resilience of benthic populations from thermally fluctuating environments has been investigated at a variety of spatial scales, this has received limited attention across depths and has remained unresolved for Antipatharian corals, key habitat-forming species across a wide bathymetric range in all of the world oceans. In this study, we aimed at addressing the thermal sensitivity of Antipatharian corals across depths characterized by different levels of temperature fluctuations. We used an acute ramping experimental approach to compare the thermal sensitivity of colonies of (1) the branched Antipatharian Antipathella wollastoni (Gray, 1857) from two distinct depths (25 and 40 m) in Gran Canaria (Canary Islands, Spain); and of (2) unbranched mesophotic (80 m) Stichopathes species, from Lanzarote (Canary Islands, Spain; S. gracilis (Gray, 1857)), and Stichopathes sp. clade C from Mo'orea, French Polynesia. Results showed that the daily temperature range in Gran Canaria was larger at mesophotic depths (3.9 °C vs. 2.8 °C at 40 and 25 m, respectively) and this coincided with lower thermal sensitivity in mesophotic colonies of A. wollastoni. Second, S. gracilis from Lanzarote showed a lower thermal sensitivity than the previously studied Stichopathes sp. clade C from Mo'orea (French Polynesia) inhabiting a less variable habitat. These results are in line with the climate variability hypothesis, which states that populations under more variable thermal conditions have a lower sensitivity to warming than those from more stable environments, as they have adapted/acclimated to these higher levels of temperature fluctuations.
Antipatharia (Black Corals)
Spain - Canary Islands