Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Ecology and Evolution




Resilience to climate change depends on a species' adaptive potential and phenotypic plasticity. The latter can enhance survival of individual organisms during short periods of extreme environmental perturbations, allowing genetic adaptation to take place over generations. Along the U.S. East Coast, estuarine‐dependent spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus) populations span a steep temperature gradient that provides an ideal opportunity to explore the molecular basis of phenotypic plasticity. Genetically distinct spotted seatrout sampled from a northern and a southern population were exposed to acute cold and heat stress (5 biological replicates in each treatment and control group), and their transcriptomic responses were compared using RNA‐sequencing (RNA‐seq). The southern population showed a larger transcriptomic response to acute cold stress, whereas the northern population showed a larger transcriptomic response to acute heat stress compared with their respective population controls. Shared transcripts showing significant differences in expression levels were predominantly enriched in pathways that included metabolism, transcriptional regulation, and immune response. In response to heat stress, only the northern population significantly upregulated genes in the apoptosis pathway, which could suggest greater vulnerability to future heat waves in this population as compared to the southern population. Genes showing population‐specific patterns of expression, including hpt, acot, hspa5, and hsc71, are candidates for future studies aiming to monitor intraspecific differences in temperature stress responses in spotted seatrout. Our findings contribute to the current understanding of phenotypic plasticity and provide a basis for predicting the response of a eurythermal fish species to future extreme temperatures.


DOI: 10.1002/ece3.7138


climate change, phenotypc plasticity, temperature stress

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ece37138-sup-0001-appendixs1.docx (345 kB)
Appendix S1 (31273 kB)
Appendix S2

ece37138-sup-0003-legendss1.docx (12 kB)
Legends S1