Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 191, Issue 11, pp 1055–1064 | Cite as

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

  • Shane K. MaloneyEmail author
  • Graeme Moss
  • Tammy Cartmell
  • Duncan Mitchell
Original Paper


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.


Behaviour Black wildebeest Diel activity patterns Thermoregulation Ungulates Connochaetes gnou 



We thank Dr. Mark Berry and DeBeers Consolidated Mines for permission to carry out the study on Benfontein game farm, and Peter, Jennifer, Gregory, and Nicky Gibbs for their friendship and help on site. Steven Cartmell and Simone Glassom spent some sleepless nights collecting data. Petro Vorster from the Kimberley Weather Office kindly supplied the rainfall data. Professor Phil Withers and an anonymous reviewer helped to improve the manuscript. The study was funded in part by the South African Foundation for Research Development. SKM was in receipt of a University of the Witwatersrand Post Doctoral Fellowship. These experiments comply with the “Principles of animal care” publication number 86–23, revised 1985 of the National Institute of Health, and also the laws of South Africa.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shane K. Maloney
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Graeme Moss
    • 2
  • Tammy Cartmell
    • 1
  • Duncan Mitchell
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PhysiologyUniversity of the Witwatersrand Medical SchoolJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department for Environment and HeritageKangaroo IslandAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Physiology, Biomedical and Chemical ScienceUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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