Thermal acclimation in a non-migratory songbird occurs via changes to thermogenic capacity, but not conductance

Rena M. Schweizer, Abimael Romero, Bret W. Tobalske, Georgy A. Semenov, Matt D. Carling, Amber M. Rice, Scott A. Taylor, Zachary A. Cheviron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Thermoregulatory performance can be modified through changes in various subordinate traits, but the rate and magnitude of change in these traits is poorly understood. We investigated flexibility in traits that affect thermal balance between black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) acclimated for 6 weeks to cold (−5°C) or control (23°C) environments (n=7 per treatment). We made repeated measurements of basal and summit metabolic rates via flow-through respirometry and of body composition using quantitative magnetic resonance of live birds. At the end of the acclimation period, we measured thermal conductance of the combined feathers and skins. Cold-acclimated birds had a higher summit metabolic rate, reflecting a greater capacity for endogenous heat generation, and an increased lean mass. However, birds did not alter their thermal conductance. These results suggest that chickadees respond to cold stress by increasing their capacity for heat production rather than increasing heat retention, an energetically expensive strategy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume226
Issue number19
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Acclimation
  • Black-capped chickadees
  • Summit metabolic rate
  • Thermal conductance
  • Thermoregulation

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