DOI: 10.1101/461871Nov 5, 2018Paper

31° South: phenotypic flexibility in adaptive thermogenesis among conspecific populations of an arid-endemic bird - from organismal to cellular level

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Angela M. RibeiroBen Smit


In north-temperate small passerines, overwinter survival is associated with a reversibly increased maximum cold-induced metabolism (Msum). This strategy may incur increased energy consumption. Therefore, species inhabiting ecosystems characterized by cold winters and low productivity (i.e., low available energy) may be precluded from displaying an increase in maximum metabolic rates. To examine whether Msum is a flexible phenotype in such challenging environments, and ultimately uncover its underpinning mechanisms, we studied an arid-endemic small bird (Karoo scrub-robin) whose range spans a primary productivity and minimum temperature gradient. We measured Msum, body condition, mass of thermogenic muscles and two indices of cellular aerobic capacity from populations living in three environmentally different regions. We found that Msum was seasonally flexible, associated with aerobic capacity of limb muscles, but not increasing with lower temperatures, as predicted. Notwithstanding, the cold limit (temperature at which birds reached their maximum metabolic capacity) decreased in winter. These results indicate that birds from arid-zones may respond to cold conditions by altering thermosensation, rather than spending energy to pr...Continue Reading

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