Environmental gradients play an important role in shaping geographic variability in coastal marine populations. Thus, the ability of organisms to cope with these changes will depend on their potential to acclimatize, or adapt, to these new environmental conditions. We investigated the spatial variability in biological responses shown by Perumytilus purpuratus mussels collected from 2 intertidal areas experiencing contrasting freshwater input influences (river-influenced vs. marine conditions). To highlight the role of plasticity and adaptive potential in biological responses, we performed a reciprocal-Transplant experiment and measured relevant phenotypic traits including mortality, growth, calcification, metabolism, and chemical composition of the shell periostra-cum. We determined that mussels exposed to river-influenced conditions had increased metabolic rates and reduced growth rates, as compared to mussels experiencing marine conditions (p > 0.05). While the energy investment strategies of the 2 local populations resulted in similar net calcification rates, these rates decreased significantly when mussels were transplanted to the river-influenced site. Stressful conditions at the river-influenced site were evidenced by decreased survivorship across treatments. Freshwater inputs modify the organic composition of the shell periostracum through a significant reduction in polysaccharides. Although our field experiment did not identify specific environmental factors underlying these contrasting phenotypic changes, the results imply that plasticity plays a strong role when P. purpuratus is exposed to some combination of natural (e.g. salinity) and anthropogenic influences (e.g. pollution), and that the lack of exposure to freshwater may promote less tolerant mussels with greater potential for local adaptation. © The authors 2016.