Adaptive thermoregulation in golden spiny mice: The influence of season and food availability on body temperature

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Abstract

We studied the effect of food supplementation during summer and winter in seminatural field conditions on thermoregulation of a desert rodent, the golden spiny mouse Acomys russatus. We hypothesized that (a) under natural food availability (control conditions), mice will use less precise thermoregulation (i.e., an increase in the variance of body temperature [Tb]) during winter because of low ambient temperatures (Ta's) and low food availability and during summer because of low food and water availability; (b) food supplementation will result in more precise thermoregulation during winter, but the effect will be smaller during summer because variation in Tb in summer is also driven by water availability during that period. We found that under natural food availability, spiny mice thermoregulated more precisely during summer than during winter. They spent more time torpid during summer than during winter even when food was supplemented (although summer nights are shorter), allowing them to conserve water. Supplementing food resulted in more precise thermoregulation in both seasons, and mice spent less time torpid. In summer, thermoregulation at high Ta's was less precise, resulting in higher maximum Tb's in summer than in winter and when food was supplemented, in accord with the expected effect of water shortage on thermoregulation. Our results suggest that as expected, precise thermoregulation is beneficial when possible and is abandoned only when the costs of homeothermy outweigh the benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-184
Number of pages10
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Volume84
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2011

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