Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Comparative thermoregulatory physiology of two dunnarts, Sminthopsis macroura and Sminthopsis ooldea (Marsupialia : Dasyuridae)

Sean Tomlinson A C , Philip C. Withers A and Shane K. Maloney B

A School of Animal Biology, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

B School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, Faculty of Life and Physical Sciences, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: sean.tomlinson@bgpa.wa.gov.au

Australian Journal of Zoology 60(1) 54-63 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/ZO12034
Submitted: 4 April 2012  Accepted: 27 June 2012   Published: 16 July 2012

Abstract

Metabolic rate and evaporative water loss (EWL) were measured to quantify the thermoregulatory patterns of two dasyurids, the stripe-faced dunnart (Sminthopsis macroura) and the Ooldea dunnart (S. ooldea) during acute exposure to Ta between 10 and 35°C. S. macroura maintained consistent Tb across the Ta range, whereas S. ooldea was more thermolabile. The metabolic rate of both species decreased from Ta = 10°C to BMR at Ta = 30°C. Mass-adjusted BMR at Ta = 30°C was the same for the two species, but there was no common regression of metabolic rate below the thermoneutral zone (TNZ). There was no significant difference between the species in allometrically corrected EWL at Ta = 30°C. Total EWL increased significantly at Ta = 10 and 35°C compared with the TNZ for S. macroura, but was consistent across the Ta range for S. ooldea. At any Ta below the TNZ, S. macroura required more energy per gram of body mass than S. ooldea, and had a higher EWL at the lower critical Ta. By being thermolabile S. ooldea reduced its energetic requirements and water loss at low Ta. The more constant thermoregulatory strategy of S. macroura may allow it to exploit a broad climatic envelope, albeit at the cost of higher energetic and water requirements. Since S. ooldea does not expend as much energy and water on thermoregulation this may be a response to the very low productivity, ‘hyperarid’ conditions of its central Australian distribution.

Graphical Abstract Image

Additional keywords: evaporative water loss, metabolic rate, thermoregulation.


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