Interplay between group size, huddling behavior and basal metabolism: an experimental approach in the social degu

Nunez-Villegas, M; Bozinovic F.; Sabat P.

Abstract

Mammals exposed to low temperatures increase their metabolic rate to maintain constant body temperature and thus compensate for heat loss. This high and costly energetic demand can be mitigated through thermoregulatory behavior such as social grouping or huddling, which helps to decrease metabolic rate as function of the numbers of individuals grouped. Sustained low temperatures in endothermic animals produce changes over time in rates of energy expenditure, by means of phenotypic plasticity. However, the putative modulating effect that huddling exerts on the flexibility of the basal metabolic rate (BMR) due to thermal acclimation remains unknown. We determined BMR values in Octodon degus, an endemic Chilean rodent, after being acclimated to either 15 or 30 degrees C during 60 days, both alone and in groups of three and five individuals. At 15 degrees C, BMR of huddling individuals was 40% lower than that of animals housed alone. Moreover, infrared thermography revealed a significant increase in local surface temperatures in huddled animals. Furthermore, individual thermal conductance was lower in individuals acclimated to 15 degrees C than to 30 degrees C, but no differences were observed between single and grouped animals. Our results indicate that huddling prevents an increase in BMR when animals are acclimated to cold conditions and that this effect is proportional to the number of animals grouped.

Más información

Título según WOS: Interplay between group size, huddling behavior and basal metabolism: an experimental approach in the social degu
Título según SCOPUS: Interplay between group size, huddling behavior and basal metabolism: An experimental approach in the social degu
Título de la Revista: Journal of Experimental Biology
Volumen: 217
Número: 6
Editorial: COMPANY OF BIOLOGISTS LTD
Fecha de publicación: 2014
Página de inicio: 997
Página final: 1002
Idioma: English
URL: http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/doi/10.1242/jeb.096164
DOI:

10.1242/jeb.096164

Notas: ISI, SCOPUS