Exposing organims to a particular stressor may enhance tolerance to a subsequent stress, when protective mechanisms against both stressors are shared. Such cross-tolerance is a common adaptive response in dynamic multivariate environments and often indicates potential co-evolution of stress traits. Many aquatic insects in inland saline waters from Mediterranean-climate regions are sequentially challenged with salinity and desiccation stress. Thus, cross-tolerance to these physiologically similar stressors could have been positively selected in insects of these regions. We used adults of the saline water beetles Enochrus jesusarribasi (Hydrophilidae) and Nebrioporus baeticus (Dytiscidae) to test cross-tolerance responses to desiccation and salinity. In independent laboratory experiments, we evaluated the effects of i) salinity stress on the subsequent resistance to desiccation and ii) desiccation stress (rapid and slow dehydration) on the subsequent tolerance to salinity. Survival, water loss and haemolymph osmolality were measured. Exposure to stressful salinity improved water control under subsequent desiccation stress in both species, with a clear cross-tolerance (enhanced performance) in N. baeticus. In contrast, general negative effects on performance were found under the inverse stress sequence. The rapid and slow dehydration produced different water loss and haemolymph osmolality dynamics that were reflected in different survival patterns. Our finding of cross-tolerance to salinity and desiccation in ecologically similar species from distant lineages, together with parallel responses between salinity and thermal stress previously found in several aquatic taxa, highlights the central role of adaption to salinity and co-occurring stressors in arid inland waters, having important implications for the species' persistence under climate change.
- Received October 24, 2016.
- Accepted January 16, 2017.
- © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd