Body temperature depression and peripheral heat loss accompany the metabolic and ventilatory responses to hypoxia in low and high altitude birds
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The objectives of this study were to compare the thermoregulatory, metabolic and ventilatory responses to hypoxia of the high altitude bar-headed goose with low altitude waterfowl. All birds were found to reduce body temperature (T(b)) during hypoxia, by up to 1-1.5 degrees C in severe hypoxia. During prolonged hypoxia, T(b) stabilized at a new lower temperature. A regulated increase in heat loss contributed to T(b) depression as reflected by increases in bill surface temperatures (up to 5 degrees C) during hypoxia. Bill warming required peripheral chemoreceptor inputs, since vagotomy abolished this response to hypoxia. T(b) depression could still occur without bill warming, however, because vagotomized birds reduced T(b) as much as intact birds. Compared to both greylag geese and pekin ducks, bar-headed geese required more severe hypoxia to initiate T(b) depression and heat loss from the bill. However, when T(b) depression or bill warming were expressed relative to arterial O(2) concentration (rather than inspired O(2)) all species were similar; this suggests that enhanced O(2) loading, rather than differences in thermoregulatory control centres, reduces T(b) depression during hypoxia in bar-headed geese. Correspondingly, bar-headed geese maintained higher rates of metabolism during severe hypoxia (7% inspired O(2)), but this was only partly due to differences in T(b). Time domains of the hypoxic ventilatory response also appeared to differ between bar-headed geese and low altitude species. Overall, our results suggest that birds can adjust peripheral heat dissipation to facilitate T(b) depression during hypoxia, and that bar-headed geese minimize T(b) and metabolic depression as a result of evolutionary adaptations that enhance O(2) transport.
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