Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 184, Issue 5, pp 545–561 | Cite as

Physiological underpinnings associated with differences in pace of life and metabolic rate in north temperate and neotropical birds

  • Ana Gabriela Jimenez
  • Clara Cooper-Mullin
  • Elisabeth A. Calhoon
  • Joseph B. Williams


Animal life-history traits fall within limited ecological space with animals that have high reproductive rates having short lives, a continuum referred to as a “slow-fast” life-history axis. Animals of the same body mass at the slow end of the life-history continuum are characterized by low annual reproductive output and low mortality rate, such as is found in many tropical birds, whereas at the fast end, rates of reproduction and mortality are high, as in temperate birds. These differences in life-history traits are thought to result from trade-offs between investment in reproduction or self-maintenance as mediated by the biotic and abiotic environment. Thus, tropical and temperate birds provide a unique system to examine physiological consequences of life-history trade-offs at opposing ends of the “pace of life” spectrum. We have explored the implications of these trade-offs at several levels of physiological organization including whole-animal, organ systems, and cells. Tropical birds tend to have higher survival, slower growth, lower rates of whole-animal basal metabolic rate and peak metabolic rate, and smaller metabolically active organs compared with temperate birds. At the cellular level, primary dermal fibroblasts from tropical birds tend to have lower cellular metabolic rates and appear to be more resistant to oxidative cell stress than those of temperate birds. However, at the subcellular level, lipid peroxidation rates, a measure of the ability of lipid molecules within the cell membranes to thwart the propagation of oxidative damage, appear not to be different between tropical and temperate species. Nevertheless, lipids in mitochondrial membranes of tropical birds tend to have increased concentrations of plasmalogens (phospholipids with antioxidant properties), and decreased concentrations of cardiolipin (a complex phospholipid in the electron transport chain) compared with temperate birds.


Tropical and temperate birds Metabolic rate Organ size Cellular metabolic rate Growth rate Survival rate Lipids 



We are grateful to Dr. Raineldo Urriola, and the Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente for permission to collect birds in Panama, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute for hosting us. Dr. Jim Van Brocklyn’s help was indispensable in raising cells from Panamanian birds, and Dr. Jim Harper has been a tremendous source of knowledge for our lab while learning to do tissue culture. We greatly appreciate Dr. Matt Wortman’s constant hospitality in his lab and his generosity in letting us use his XF Analyzer. We would like to thank the Velleman lab at the Ohio State University Wooster campus and Cynthia Coy for her help in teaching us myoblast tissue culture methods. We also appreciate Paul Blischak’s help in creating our consensus trees. This study was funded by NSF IBN 0212587 (JBW), and a Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute post-doctoral fellowship (AGJ).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana Gabriela Jimenez
    • 1
  • Clara Cooper-Mullin
    • 1
  • Elisabeth A. Calhoon
    • 1
  • Joseph B. Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal BiologyOhio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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