Small Alpine Marsupials Regulate Evaporative Water Loss, Suggesting a Thermoregulatory Role Rather than a Water Conservation Role

Philip Carew Withers, Christine Elizabeth Cooper, Gerhard Körtner, Fritz Geiser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We show here that evaporative water loss (EWL) is constant over a wide range of ambient relative humidity for two species of small, mesic habitat dasyurid marsupials (Antechinus agilis and Antechinus swainsonii) below thermoneutrality (207C) and within thermoneutrality (307C). This independence of EWL from the water vapor pressure deficit between the animal and its environment indicates that EWL is physiologically controlled by both species. The magnitude of this control of EWL was similar to that of two other small marsupials from more arid habitats, which combined with the observation that there were no effects of relative humidity on body temperature or metabolic rate, suggests that control of EWL is a consequence of precise thermoregulation to maintain heat balance rather than a water-conserving strategy at low relative humidities. The antechinus appear to manipulate cutaneous EWL rather than respiratory EWL to control their total EWL by modifying their cutaneous resistance and/or skin temperature. We propose that there is a continuum between enhanced thermoregulatory EWL at high ambient temperature and so-called insensible EWL at and below thermoneutrality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-228
Number of pages17
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Volume95
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022

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