Cave‐dwelling ectotherms, which have evolved for millions of years under stable thermal conditions, could be expected to have adjusted their physiological limits to the narrow range of temperatures they experience and to be highly vulnerable to global warming. However, most of the few existing studies on thermal tolerance in subterranean invertebrates highlight that despite the fact that they show lower heat tolerance than most surface‐dwelling species, their upper thermal limits are generally not adjusted to ambient temperature. The question remains to what extent this pattern is common across subterranean invertebrates. We studied basal heat tolerance and its plasticity in four species of distant arthropod groups (Coleoptera, Diplopoda, and Collembola) with different evolutionary histories but under similar selection pressures, as they have been exposed to the same constant environmental conditions for a long time. Adults were exposed at different temperatures for 1 week to determine upper lethal temperatures. Then, individuals from previous sublethal treatments were transferred to a higher temperature to determine acclimation capacity. Upper lethal temperatures of three of the studied species were similar to those reported for other subterranean species (between 20 and 25°C) and widely exceeded the cave temperature (13–14°C). The diplopod species showed the highest long‐term heat tolerance detected so far for a troglobiont (i.e., obligate subterranean) species (median lethal temperature after 7 days exposure: 28°C) and a positive acclimation response. Our results agree with previous studies showing that heat tolerance in subterranean species is not determined by environmental conditions. Thus, subterranean species, even those living under similar climatic conditions, might be differently affected by global warming.
Heat tolerance and acclimation capacity were studied in four subterranean species of distant arthropod groups but living under similar selection pressures (exposed to the same constant environmental conditions for a long time). Upper thermal limits widely exceeded ambient temperature and differed among the species, as well as acclimation responses. Our results show that heat tolerance in subterranean species is not determined by environmental conditions. Cave species, even those which live under similar climatic conditions, might be differently affected by global warming.