Was basking important in the evolution of mammalian endothermy?
- Cite this article as:
- Geiser, F., Goodship, N. & Pavey, C.R. Naturwissenschaften (2002) 89: 412. doi:10.1007/s00114-002-0349-4
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The first mammals were small, nocturnal, and presumably had low metabolic rates and were therefore probably unable to maintain a constant high body temperature throughout cool nights. How these animals, without sufficient heat production for endogenous rewarming, were able to become warm and active again before the next activity period remains unresolved. However, we discovered that, similar to reptiles, the carnivorous marsupial mammal Pseudantechinus macdonnellensis (body mass 30.8±5.0 g) uses the morning sun to rewarm from low (26.3±4.5°C) body temperatures during torpor. Our findings provide the first evidence of basking during rewarming from torpor in mammals and may provide an alternative explanation as to how ancestral mammals could have become nocturnal to avoid diurnal predators despite their small size and a low endogenous heat production.