Seasonal acclimatization to temperature in cardueline finches
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Seasonal variation in metabolism and insulation was measured throughout the year in American goldfinches (Spinus tristis) and during winter in pine siskins (S. pinus).
Basal levels of metabolism of goldfinches in summer, 4.24 ml O2 (g·h)−1, and winter, 4.65 ml O2 (g·h)−1, do not differ significantly, but the intercept of the regression line defining the relation of oxygen consumption to ambient temperature below thermoneutrality is significantly higher for summer birds (Figs. 1, 2).
Basal metabolism of pine siskins, 4.52 ml O2 (g·h)−1, does not differ significantly from those of summer or winter goldfinches (Fig. 3). Basal levels for siskins and winter goldfinches were 40 and 50% higher, respectively, than values predicted by the appropriate equation of Aschoff and Pohl (1970) for passerine birds of similar size.
Summer goldfinches exposed to severe cold (−70°C) remain homeothermic for no more than 1 h. Winter goldfinches tolerate similar conditions for as much as 6–8 h (Fig. 5). All goldfinches tested in January remain homeothermic over at least 3 h below −60°C. None do so between April and October (Fig. 6).
Masses of dry contour plumage of goldfinches change from a mean of 0.57 g in January to 0.33 g in September. The changes in plumage mass are not coincident with the seasonal changes in resistance to severe cold (Fig. 7).
Metabolic rather than insulative adjustments appear primarily responsible for the acclimatization of American goldfinches and pine siskins to winter conditions in the northern United States.
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