This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. A key challenge for ecologists is to quantify, explain and predict the ecology and behaviour of animals from knowledge of their basic physiology. Compared to our knowledge of many other types of distribution and behaviour, and how these are linked to individual function, we have a poor level of understanding of the causal basis for orientation behaviours. Most explanations for patterns of animal orientation assume that animals will modify their exposure to environmental factors by altering their orientation. We used a keystone grazer on rocky shores, the limpet Cellana tramoserica, to test this idea. Manipulative experiments were done to evaluate whether orientation during emersion affected limpet desiccation or body temperature. Body temperature was determined from infrared thermography, a technique that minimises disturbance to the test organism. No causal relationships were found between orientation and (i) level of desiccation and (ii) their body temperature. These results add to the growing knowledge that responses to desiccation and thermal stress may be less important in modifying the behaviour of intertidal organisms than previously supposed and that thermoregulation does not always reflect patterns of animal orientation.Much of what we understand about orientation comes from studies of animals able to modify orientation over very short time scales. Our data suggests that for animals whose location is less flexible, orientation decisions may have less to do with responses to environmental factors and more to do with structural habitat properties or intrinsic individual attributes. Therefore we suggest future studies into processes affecting orientation must include organisms with differing levels of behavioural plasticity.