Tropical seagrass Halophila stipulacea shifts thermal tolerance during Mediterranean invasion

Marlene Wesselmann, Andrea Anton Gamazo, Carlos M. Duarte, Iris E. Hendriks, Susana Agusti, Ioannis Savva, Eugenia T. Apostolaki, Núria Marbà

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Exotic species often face new environmental conditions that are different from those that they are adapted to. The tropical seagrass Halophila stipulacea is a Lessepsian migrant that colonized the Mediterranean Sea around 100 years ago, where at present the minimum seawater temperature is cooler than in its native range in the Red Sea. Here, we tested if the temperature range in which H. stipulacea can exist is conserved within the species or if the exotic populations have shifted their thermal breadth and optimum due to the cooler conditions in the Mediterranean. We did so by comparing the thermal niche (e.g. optimal temperatures, and upper and lower thermal limits) of native (Saudi Arabia in the Red Sea) and exotic (Greece and Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea) populations of H. stipulacea. We exposed plants to 12 temperature treatments ranging from 8 to 40°C for 7 days. At the end of the incubation period, we measured survival, rhizome elongation, shoot recruitment, net population growth and metabolic rates. Upper and lower lethal thermal thresholds (indicated by 50% plant mortality) were conserved across populations, but minimum and optimal temperatures for growth and oxygen production were lower for Mediterranean populations than for the Red Sea one. The displacement of the thermal niche of exotic populations towards the colder Mediterranean Sea regime could have occurred within 175 clonal generations.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20193001
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1922
StatePublished - Mar 11 2020

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: This work was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Project MEDSHIFT, CGL2015-71809-P), the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (SUMAECO, RTI2018-095441-B-C21) and King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (3834 KAUST-CSIC Research Collaboration and base line funding to C.M.D.). We thank Zenon Batang for the nutrient concentration data, Julius Glampedakis for field assistance and Olga Sanchez and Rocío Garcia for laboratory assistance. M.W. was supported by a PhD contract (BES-2016-078241) of the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities.


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