Geographic variation in torpor patterns : the northernmost prairie dogs and kangaroo rats
Gummer, David Lee
Many endotherms use torpor on a seasonal or daily basis to conserve metabolic resources during difficult conditions, but the capacity to do so has never been recognized as varying intraspecifically. I hypothesized that populations that are exposed to prolonged cold, snow, or scarcity of food resources relative to other conspecifics may express torpor despite the fact that other conspecifics may not use, or even be capable of, torpor. I studied thermoregulation of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) and Ord’s kangaroo rats (Dipodomys ordii) at the extreme northernmost periphery of each species range to determine whether there is evidence for geographic variation in torpor patterns.Contrary to previous studies of black-tailed prairie dogs near the centre of the species range, I found that northern prairie dogs hibernate during winter, spending up to 95 days per year in torpor. Synchrony of body temperature patterns of some individuals suggests that northern prairie dogs hibernate communally. Similarly, in contrast to previous studies of kangaroo rats in more southern localities, I found that northern Ord’s kangaroo rats use daily torpor during winter, entering torpor on up to 70 days per year. Kangaroo rats that use deep torpor exhibit comparable survival and pre-winter body mass, but poorer spring body condition, than kangaroo rats that do not use deep torpor. I reported the details of my procedures for studying thermoregulation of small mammals in the wild, to encourage comparable studies that would provide additional insights on intraspecific variation in torpor patterns. My findings are the first to demonstrate that the capacity for torpor varies predictably on a geographic basis.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeMichener, Gail R.; Flood, Peter F.; Clark, Robert G.; Chivers, Douglas P.; Bortolotti, Gary R.
Copyright DateMarch 2005