Natural temperature variation in many marine ecosystems is stochastic and unpredictable, and climate change models indicate that this thermal irregularity is likely to increase. Temperature acclimation may be more challenging when conditions are highly variable and stochastic, and there is a need for empirical physiological data in these thermal environments. Using the hermaphroditic, amphibious mangrove rivulus (Kryptolebias marmoratus), we hypothesized that compared with regular, warming diel thermal fluctuations, stochastic warm fluctuations would negatively affect physiological performance. To test this, we acclimated fish to: (1) non-stochastic and (2) stochastic thermal fluctuations with a similar thermal load (27−35°C), and (3) a stable/consistent control temperature at the low end of the cycle (27°C). We determined that fecundity was reduced in both cycles, with reproduction ceasing in stochastic thermal environments. Fish acclimated to non-stochastic thermal cycles had growth rates lower than those of control fish. Exposure to warm, fluctuating cycles did not affect emersion temperature, and only regular diel cycles modestly increased critical thermal tolerance. We predicted that warm diel cycling temperatures would increase gill surface area. Notably, fish acclimated to either thermal cycle had a reduced gill surface area and increased intralamellar cell mass when compared with control fish. This decreased gill surface area with warming contrasts with what is observed for exclusively aquatic fish and suggests a preparatory gill response for emersion in these amphibious fish. Collectively, our data reveal the importance of considering stochastic thermal variability when studying the effects of temperature on fishes.

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