Carreira, B.M., Segurado, P., Laurila, A. & Rebelo, R. (2020) Heat waves trigger swift changes in the diet and life-history of a freshwater snail.Hydrobiologia, 847, 999-1011. DOI:10.1007/s10750-019-04155-3 (IF2020 2,694; Q1 Marine & Freshwater Biology)
Extreme climatic events, such as heat waves, may induce changes in nutrient acquisition by omnivorous ectotherms. Likely modulated by the intensity, frequency and duration of these events, dietary shifts during heat waves may threaten the stability of freshwaters. We investigated the effects of heat wave duration on diet assimilation and life-history traits of the freshwater gastropod Radix balthica. We compared the magnitude of the effects of a short (1 week) and a long heat wave (7 weeks) on the assimilation of animal- and plant-based diets, measuring performance in terms of growth rate and reproduction. We hypothesized that heat waves should increase the proportion of plant material assimilated on the mixed diet and change the performance of snails on the animal and plant-based diets. Both heat waves increased the assimilation of plant material on the mixed diet and growth rate, with minor negative effects on reproduction. However, responses were disproportional to heat wave duration, as the short heat wave elicited swift and relatively stronger responses. Our findings showcase the role of phenotypic plasticity in aiding ectotherms to cope with increased thermal stress and acclimate. Temporarily changing the strength of trophic interactions, heat waves may alter community dynamics in freshwater habitats.