Cold and Hungry: Heterothermy Is Associated with Low Leptin Levels in a Bulk Grazer during a Drought

Arista Botha, Andrea Fuller, Brianna R. Beechler, Hendrik J. Combrink, Anna E. Jolles, Shane K. Maloney, Robyn S. Hetem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Reduced energy intake can compromise the ability of a mammal to maintain body temperature within a narrow 24-h range, lead-ing to heterothermy. To investigate the main drivers of hetero-thermy in a bulk grazer, we compared abdominal temperature, body mass, body condition index, and serum leptin levels in 11 subadult Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer) during a drought year and a nondrought year. Low food availability during the drought year (as indexed by grass biomass, satellite imagery of vegetation greenness, and fecal chlorophyll) resulted in lower body condition index, lower body mass relative to that expected for an equivalent-aged buffalo, and lower leptin levels. The range of 24-h body temperature rhythm was 27C during the nondrought year and more than double that during the drought year, and this was caused primarily by a lower minimum 24-h body temperature rhythm during the cool dry winter months. After rain fell and vegetation greenness increased, the minimum 24-h body temperature rhythm increased, and the range of 24-h body temperature rhythm was smaller than 27C. In order of importance, poor body condition, low minimum 24-h air temperature, and low serum leptin levels were the best predictors of the increase in the range of 24-h body temperature rhythm. While the thermoregulatory role of leptin is not fully understood, the association between range of 24-h body temperature rhythm and serum leptin levels provides clues about the underlying mechanism behind the increased heterothermy in large mammals facing food restriction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-355
Number of pages14
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Volume96
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023

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