There are four important influences on the temperature tolerance displayed by infaunal bivalves, namely their position on the shore, the depth to which they burrow, their geographical distribution and the seasonal cycle.
The temperature tolerance of a species is closely related to shore position and burrowing depth, since these both modify the actual range of temperatures to which the organism is exposed and the tidal variation in temperature. As one might expect, southern populations of a species tend to be lower on the shore than equivalents in northern Europe, but at any one location it is difficult to detect a difference in tolerance between individuals from the top of the shore and those from the bottom. Southern populations do have a higher tolerance to high temperatures than northern, despite the shift in littoral distribution. A similar pattern of response and shift in tolerance is shown between summer- and winter-acclimated specimens.
However, the seasonal shift in response to temperature is not entirely as might be expected, as oxygen consumption measurements show reverse acclimation (i.e. winter respiration rates lower than summer). Reverse acclimation has been demonstrated in a number of bivalve species, and the degree of reverse acclimation is here suggested to be related to the degree of deposit- or filter-feeding habit.
There is evidence that bivalves are capable of regulating to some extent their metabolic rate, independent of temperature. Six groups of Macoma balthica were investigated, of which the four from relatively high temperature environments regulated from 20°C, while the other two did not, suggesting that this capability can be acquired.