Field data showing the daily patterns in body temperature (T-b) of kangaroos in hot, arid conditions, with and without water, indicate the use of adaptive heterothermy, i.e. large variation in T-b. However, daily T-b variation was greater in the Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), a species of mesic origin, than in the desert-adapted Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus). The nature of such responses was studied by an examination of their thermal adjustments to dehydration in thermoneutral temperatures (25 degrees C) and at high temperature (45 degrees C) via the use of tame, habituated animals in a climate chamber. At the same level of dehydration M. rufus was less impacted, in that its T-b changed less than that for M. giganteus while it evaporated significantly less water. At a T-a of 45 degrees C with water restriction T (b) reached 38.9 +/- 0.3 degrees C in M. rufus compared with 40.2 +/- 0.4 degrees C for M. giganteus. The ability of M. rufus to reduce dry conductance in the heat while dehydrated was central to its superior thermal control. While M. giganteus showed more heterothermy, i.e. its T-b varied more, this seemed due to a lower tolerance of dehydration in concert with a strong thermal challenge. The benefits of heterothermy to M. giganteus were also limited because of thermal (Q(10)) effects on metabolic heat production and evaporative heat loss. The impacts of T-b on heat production were such that low morning T-b's seen in the field may be associated with energy saving, as well as water saving. Kangaroos respond to dehydration and heat similarly to many ungulates, and it is apparent that the accepted notions about adaptive heterothermy in large desert mammals may need revisiting.
|Journal||Journal of Comparative Physiology B: biochemical, systemic, and environmental physiology|
|Publication status||Published - 2007|