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Mammalian Biology

, Volume 78, Issue 6, pp 397–405 | Cite as

Metabolic, hygric and ventilatory physiology of the red-tailed phascogale (Phascogale calura; Marsupialia, Dasyuridae): Adaptations to aridity or arboreality?

  • Hannah Pusey
  • Christine E. CooperEmail author
  • Philip C. Withers
Original Investigation

Abstract

The red-tailed phascogale is a small arboreal dasyurid marsupial that inhabits semi-arid to arid regions of Western Australia’s wheat belt. Its body mass (34.7 g) is only ~ 15% of that predicted based on its phylogenetic position among other dasyuromorphs; we interpret this as an adaptation to its scansorial and semi-arid/arid lifestyle. The standard physiology of this species at a thermoneutral ambient temperature of 30 °C conforms to that of other dasyurid marsupials; body temperature (34.7 ± 0.37 °C), basal metabolic rate (0.83 ± 0.076mLO2g-1 h-1), evaporative water loss (1.68±0.218mgH2Og-1 hr-1) and wet thermal conductance (3.8±0.26Jg-1 hr-1 °C-1) all fall within the 95% predication limits for the respective allo-metric relationships for other dasyurid species. Thermolability confers an energy savings at low Ta and water savings at high Ta. Torpor, observed at low Ta, was found to be more beneficial for energy savings than for water economy. The red-tailed phascogale therefore has a physiology suitable for the challenges of arid environments without any obvious requirement for adaptations to its scansorial lifestyle, other than its considerably lower-than-expected body mass.

Keywords

Marsupial Dasyuridae Energetics Water balance Ventilation 

Abbreviations

BMR

basal metabolic rate

C

thermal conductance

Cdry

dry thermal conductance

cm

centimetres

Cwet

wet thermal conductance

°C

degrees celsius

EHL

evaporative heat loss

EO2

oxygen extraction

EQ

evaporative quotient

EWL

evaporative water loss

fR

ventilatory frequency

g

grams

h

hours

J

joules

mg

milligrams

min

minute

mL

millilitres

MHP

metabolic heat production

MR

metabolic rate

MVUE

minimum variance unbiased estimator

MWP

metabolic water production

N

number of individuals

n

number of measurements

PRWE

point of relative water economy

RER

respiratory exchange ratio

RH

relative humidity

RWE

relative water economy

SE

standard error

Ta

ambient temperature

Tb

body temperature

VCO2

rate of carbon dioxide production

VO2

rate of oxygen consumption

VB

Visual Basic

VI

minute volume

VT

tidal volume

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Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hannah Pusey
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christine E. Cooper
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Philip C. Withers
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Environment and AgricultureCurtin UniversityWestern AustraliaAustralia
  2. 2.Life and Environmental SciencesDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  3. 3.Animal BiologyUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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