Document Type


Date of Original Version



Biological Sciences


At −1.8 °C, the waters of Antarctica pose a formidable physiological barrier for most ectotherms. The few taxa that inhabit this zone have presumably made specific adjustments to their neuromuscular function and have enhanced their metabolic capacity. However, support for this assertion is equivocal and the details of specific compensations are largely unknown. This can generally be attributed to the fact that most Antarctic organisms are either too distantly related to their temperate relatives to permit direct comparisons (e.g., notothenioid fishes) or because they are not amenable to neuromuscular recording. Here, as a comparative model, we take advantage of 2 pelagic molluscs in the genus Clione to conduct a broadly integrative investigation on neuromuscular adaptation to the extreme cold. We find that for the Antarctic congener aerobic capacity is enhanced, but at a cost. To support a striking proliferation of mitochondria, the Antarctic species has shed a 2-gear swim system and the associated specialized neuromuscular components, resulting in greatly reduced scope for locomotor activity. These results suggest that polar animals have undergone substantial tissue-level reorganizations to accommodate their environment, which may reduce their capacity to acclimate to a changing climate.