Orientation to solar radiation in black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou)

Shane Maloney, G. Moss, D. Mitchell

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    20 Citations (Scopus)


    We recorded the body axis orientation of free-living black wildebeest relative to incident solar radiation and wind. Observations were made on three consecutive days, on six occasions over the course of 1 year, in a treeless, predominantly cloudless habitat. Frequency of orientation parallel to incident solar radiation increased, and perpendicular to incident solar radiation decreased, as ambient dry-bulb temperature or solar radiation intensity increased, or wind speed decreased. We believe these changes were mediated via their effect on skin temperature. Parallel orientation behavior was more prominent when the wildebeest were standing without feeding than it was when they were feeding. We calculate that a black wildebeest adopting parallel orientation throughout the diurnal period would absorb 30% less radiant heat than the same animal adopting perpendicular orientation. Parallel orientation was reduced at times when water was freely available, possibly reflecting a shift from behavioral to autonomic thermoregulatory mechanisms. The use of orientation behavior by black wildebeest is well developed and forms part of the suite of adaptations that help them to maintain heat balance while living in a shadeless, often hot, environment.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1065-1077
    JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


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