Metabolic rates, food consumption and thermoregulation in seasonal acclimatization of the Cape porcupine Hystrix africaeaustralis
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Metabolic rates by means of oxygen consumption (VO2) at various ambient temperatures (T a) and food consumption as well as water intake and thermoregulation were compared between individuals of the Cape porcupine Hystrix africaeaustralis acclimated to T a=32°C with a photoperiod of 16L:8D summer-acclimated and T a=10°C; 8L:16D winter-acclimated. The lower critical temperature as well as overall minimal thermal conductance were lower for the winter-acclimated porcupines when compared to summer-acclimated ones, while VO2 at the thermoneutral-zone was significantly (P<0.001) higher in the winter-acclimated porcupines. Dry matter intake, apparent digestible dry matter intake, gross digestible energy intake, as well as water intake, were significantly higher in the winter-acclimated porcupines. Yet, while dry matter intake increased 4 times in the winter-acclimated porcupines, apparent digestible dry matter increased only at a rate of 2.9 times. This difference is better reflected in terms of digestibility efficiency which in the winter-acclimated porcupines is only at a rate of 67.5% while in the summer-acclimated porcupines it is at a rate of 90%. From the results of this study, it is possible to assume that heat production in the winter-acclimated porcupines is partly increased by food intake. Increased heat production on the one hand, and a decrease in overall minimal thermal conductance on the other, seem to be important mechanisms in winter acclimatization of the Cape porcupine.
Key wordsMetabolic rates Thermoregulation Digestibility Winter acclimation Conductance
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