Behaviour broadens thermal safety margins on artificial coastal defences in the tropics

Shelley H. M. Chan, Denise R. Y. Ong, Gray A. Williams, Sam Crickenberger, Lynette Loke, Peter A. Todd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Tropical species are predicted to be among the most vulnerable to climate change as they often live close to their upper limits to thermal tolerance and in many cases, behavioural thermoregulation is required to persist in the thermal extremes of tropical latitudes. In concert with warming temperatures, near-shore species are faced with the additional threat of shoreline hardening, leading to a reduction in microhabitats that can provide thermal refuges. This situation is exemplified in Singapore, which lies almost on the equator and so experiences year-round hot temperatures, and much of its coastline is now seawall. To investigate the thermal ecology of a common intertidal gastropod, Nerita undata, on these artificial structures, we measured thermal conditions on two seawalls, the temperatures of habitats occupied by the snail, and compared these with the snail's thermal tolerance by measuring heart rate and behavioural thermoregulation (as preferred temperature, Tpref). At one of the two seawalls (Tanjong Rimau), temperatures experienced by N. undata exceeded all measures of thermal tolerance in the sun, while at the other (Palawan Beach), they did not. Temperatures in habitats occupied by the snails on the seawalls were similar to their measured Tpref in the laboratory and were lower than all measures of thermal tolerance. Behavioural thermoregulation by the snails, therefore, significantly increased the thermal safety margins of N. undata on the relatively homogenous seawalls in Singapore, and at one of the two seawalls were necessary to allow snails to survive. Accordingly, to facilitate motile species to maintain broad thermal safety margins through behavioural regulation, the provision of additional refuges from thermal stress is recommended on artificial coastal defences such as seawalls.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105618
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalMarine Environmental Research
Early online date5 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Complexity
  • Eco-engineering
  • Habitat enhancement
  • Nerita undata
  • Preferred temperature
  • Seawalls
  • Singapore


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