Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 191, Issue 11, pp 1055–1064

Alteration in diel activity patterns as a thermoregulatory strategy in black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou)


    • School of PhysiologyUniversity of the Witwatersrand Medical School
    • Department of Physiology, Biomedical and Chemical ScienceUniversity of Western Australia
  • Graeme Moss
    • Department for Environment and Heritage
  • Tammy Cartmell
    • School of PhysiologyUniversity of the Witwatersrand Medical School
  • Duncan Mitchell
    • School of PhysiologyUniversity of the Witwatersrand Medical School
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00359-005-0030-4

Cite this article as:
Maloney, S.K., Moss, G., Cartmell, T. et al. J Comp Physiol A (2005) 191: 1055. doi:10.1007/s00359-005-0030-4


The nychthemeral activity patterns of a population of female black wildebeest inhabiting a shadeless environment were surveyed periodically over 1 year. The wildebeest fed mostly at night, with the proportion of feeding at night increasing when ambient conditions were hotter. Inactive periods were spent mostly lying during cooler weather but standing as days became hotter. We suggest that the entire suite of behavioural adjustments is beneficial to heat exchange with the environment. Behaviour patterns were markedly different during one warm weather survey, from the other warm weather surveys, when an 8-month dry spell had just been broken. We suggest that this may reflect the availability of water for autonomic thermoregulation, a consequent decreased reliance on behavioural thermoregulation, and a release of the thermal constraints on foraging. Our results help to explain the ability of black wildebeest to maintain body core temperature within a very narrow range despite being exposed to an environment with large nychthemeral variations in thermal conditions and offering little in the way of microclimate selection.


BehaviourBlack wildebeestDiel activity patternsThermoregulationUngulatesConnochaetes gnou

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005