Thermoregulatory trade-offs underlie the effects of warming summer temperatures on deer mice Thesis uri icon

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  • ABSTRACTClimate warming could challenge the ability of endotherms to thermoregulate and maintain normal body temperature (Tb), but the effects of warming summer temperatures on activity and thermoregulatory physiology in many small mammals remain poorly understood. We examined this issue in deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), an active nocturnal species. Mice were exposed in the lab to simulated seasonal warming, in which an environmentally realistic diel cycle of ambient temperature (Ta) was gradually warmed from spring conditions to summer conditions (controls were maintained in spring conditions). Activity (voluntary wheel running) and Tb (implanted bio-loggers) were measured throughout, and indices of thermoregulatory physiology (thermoneutral zone, thermogenic capacity) were assessed after exposure. In control mice, activity was almost entirely restricted to the night-time, and Tb fluctuated ∼1.7°C between daytime lows and night-time highs. Activity, body mass and food consumption were reduced and water consumption was increased in later stages of summer warming. This was accompanied by strong Tb dysregulation that culminated in a complete reversal of the diel pattern of Tb variation, with Tb reaching extreme highs (∼40°C) during daytime heat but extreme lows (∼34°C) at cooler night-time temperatures. Summer warming was also associated with reduced ability to generate body heat, as reflected by decreased thermogenic capacity and decreased mass and uncoupling protein (UCP1) content of brown adipose tissue. Our findings suggest that thermoregulatory trade-offs associated with daytime heat exposure can affect Tb and activity at cooler night-time temperatures, impacting the ability of nocturnal mammals to perform behaviours important for fitness in the wild.


  • Flewwelling, Luke D
  • Wearing, Oliver H
  • Garrett, Emily J
  • Scott, Graham

publication date

  • March 1, 2023