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Heterothermy as a mechanism to offset energetic costs of environmental and homeostatic perturbations


Morales, Javier Omar; Walker, Nikki; Warne, Robin; Boyles, Justin (2021), Heterothermy as a mechanism to offset energetic costs of environmental and homeostatic perturbations, Dryad, Dataset,


Environmental and biotic pressures impose homeostatic costs on all organisms. The energetic costs of maintaining high body temperatures (Tb) render endotherms sensitive to pressures that increase foraging costs. In response, some mammals become more heterothermic to conserve energy. We measured Tb in banner-tailed kangaroo rats (Dipodomys spectabilis) to test and disentangle the effects of air temperature and moonlight (a proxy for predation risk) on thermoregulatory homeostasis. We further perturbed homeostasis in some animals with chronic corticosterone (CORT) via silastic implants. Heterothermy increased across summer, consistent with the predicted effect of lunar illumination (and predation), and in the direction opposite to the predicted effect of environmental temperatures. The effect of lunar illumination was also evident within nights as animals maintained low Tb when the moon was above the horizon. The pattern was accentuated in CORT-treated animals, suggesting they adopted an even further heightened risk-avoidance strategy that might impose reduced foraging and energy intake. Still, CORT-treatment did not affect body condition over the entire study, indicating kangaroo rats offset decreases in energy intake through energy savings associated with heterothermy. Environmental conditions receive the most attention in studies of thermoregulatory homeostasis, but we demonstrated here that biotic factors can be more important and should be considered in future studies.

Usage Notes

This data includes the r script for analyzing HI values as well as calculating activity time.


National Science Foundation, Award: 1734728