As more frequent and intense heat waves expose animals to temperatures outside of their normal limits, an international team led by researchers at the University of Bristol studied over 100 species of insect to better understand how these changes will likely affect them.

Insects – which are as important as pollinators, crop pests and disease vectors - are particularly vulnerable to extreme temperatures. One way insects can deal with such extremes is through acclimation, where previous thermal exposure extends their critical thermal limits. Acclimation can trigger physiological changes such as the upregulation of heat shock proteins, and result in changes to phospholipid composition in the cell membrane.

The team discovered that insects struggle to do this effectively, revealing acclimation of both upper and lower critical thermal limits was weak – for each 1°C shift in exposure, limits were adjusted by only 0.092°C and 0.147°C respectively (i.e. only a small compensation of 10 or 15%).

Read the full article about insects and climate change at Environmental News Network.