Phenotypic and transcriptomic responses to salinity stress across genetically and geographically divergent Tigriopus californicus populations

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Species inhabiting the North American west coast intertidal must tolerate an extremely variable environment, with large fluctuations in both temperature and salinity. Uncovering the mechanisms for this tolerance is key to understanding species' persistence. We tested for differences in salinity tolerance between populations of Tigriopus californicus copepods from locations in northern (Bodega Reserve) and southern (San Diego) California known to differ in temperature, precipitation and humidity. We also tested for differences between populations in their transcriptomic responses to salinity. Although these two populations have ~20% mtDNA sequence divergence and differ strongly in other phenotypic traits, we observed similarities in their phenotypic and transcriptomic responses to low and high salinity stress. Salinity significantly affected respiration rate (increased under low salinity and reduced under high salinity), but we found no significant effect of population on respiration or a population by salinity interaction. Under high salinity, there was no population difference in knock-down response, but northern copepods had a smaller knock-down under low salinity stress, corroborating previous results for T. californicus. Northern and southern populations had a similar transcriptomic response to salinity based on a principle components analysis, although differential gene expression under high salinity stress was three times lower in the northern population compared to the southern population. Transcripts differentially regulated under salinity stress were enriched for "amino acid transport" and "ion transport" annotation categories, supporting previous work demonstrating that the accumulation of free amino acids is important for osmotic regulation in T. californicus.

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Molecular ecology

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