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Ocean warming drives latitudinal shifts in the distribution of ectotherm species. The rate and magnitude of such shifts are constrained by physiology and behavioural thermoregulation. Here, we investigated the thermal preference and lower critical temperature (CTmin) in female edible crab Cancer pagurus, a decapod crustacean with an ongoing northward dispersal along the Norwegian coast. The temperature selected by individual crabs from a northern (latitude ~69°N) and southern (latitude ~62°N) location was examined in a horizontal gradient (5.5-14.5°C) under a simulated day and night light regime. Irrespective of origin, crabs showed pronounced responses to the light cycle – during the day crabs stayed inactive in the warm end of the gradient but during night they actively explored the entire gradient. A preferred temperature of ~13 °C (measured as mode of loggings) was identified for crabs at both locations. Righting reflex experiments of crabs exposed to a rapid temperature drop (7 - 1 °C at -0.1 °C/min) identified a CTmin of ~1.3 °C (i.e., the temperature at which 50% of crabs failed to right from an up-side-down position), and with no significant difference between locations (p > 0.05). Our results provide important information about the functional characteristics of edible crab, and are discussed in context of the biology and ongoing northward dispersal of the species.
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