Thermoregulatory Adaptations to Cold in Winter-Acclimatized Long-Tailed Ducks (Clangula Hyemalis)

  • Bjørn Munro Jenssen
  • Morten Ekker
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (ASIAS, volume 173)


The extreme thermal conditions that prevail during wintertime in maritim arctic and subarctic regions are probably the reason why so few homeotherms choose to winter there. In addition to low air temperatures, aquatic animals are exposed to water temperatures as low as -1.8 °C. In order to remain homeothermic in water, some animal groups, such as the pinnipeds and cetaceans, have evolved a thick insulating layer of blubber (Aschoff, 1981). Other groups, such as otters and birds are dependent on a water-repelling pelt or plumage that creates an insulating air layer around the animal (Costa and Kooyman, 1982, Kooyman et al., 1976). The only birds that spend most of their time on the sea surface during winter are found among loons, auks and seaducks. Few studies have been made to investigate the particular adaptations that these species, which may winter as far north as 71 °N, have evolved in order to live in such harsh conditions. In a previous study (Jenssen et al., 1989) we studied the thermoregulation of Common eiders (Somateria mollissima) acclimatized to winter conditions. The study showed that the Common eider, which is the largest of the seaducks, has evolved a highly insulative plumage. This species, in addition, depends upon extensive use of peripheral vasoconstriction to minimize its heat loss. The basal metabolic heat production of the Common eider is not particurlarly high, as is found to be the case among other seabirds from high lattitudes (Ellis, 1984).


Heat Production Thermal Insulation Allometric Equation Standard Metabolic Rate Peripheral Vasoconstriction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aschoff, J., 1981, Minireview: Thermal conductance in mammals and birds: its dependence on body size and circadian phase. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 69A: 611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aschoff, J., and Pohl, H., 1970, Rhythmic variations in energy metabolism. Fed. Proc. 29: 1541.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Cramp, S., and Simmons, K.E.L., 1977, Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa: The birds of the Western Palearctic. Vol. 1: Ostriches-ducks. Oxford University Press, London. 722p.Google Scholar
  4. Costa, D.P., and Kooyman, G.L., 1982, Oxygen consumption, thermoregulation, and the effects of für oiling and washing on the sea otter, Enhydra lutris. Can. J. Zool. 60: 2761.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dawson, W.R., and Hudson, J.W., 1970, Birds. In “Comparative physiology of thermoregulation, Vol. I, Invertebrates and non-mammalian vertebrates” (G.C. Whittow, Ed.). p. 223. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  6. Depocas, F.A., and Hart, J.S., 1957, Use of the Pauling oxygen analyzer for measurement of oxygen consumption of animals in open circuit system and in a short-lag, closed-circuit apparatus. J. Appl. Physiol. 10: 388.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Ellis, H.I., 1984, Energetics of free-ranging seabirds. In “Seabird energetics”. (G.C. Whittow & H. Rahn, Eds.). p. 203. Plenum Press, New York/London.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hails, C.J., 1983, The metabolic rate of tropical birds. Condor 85: 61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Jenssen, B.M., Ekker, M., and Bech, C., 1989, Thermoregulation in winter acclimatized Common eiders, Somateria m mollissima, in air and water. Can. J. Zool. (in press).Google Scholar
  10. Kendeigh, S.C., Dol’nik, V.R., and Gavrilov, V.M., 1977, Avian energetics. In “Granivorous birds in ecosystems” (J. Pinowski & S.C. Kendeigh, Eds.). p. 127. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  11. Kooyman, G.L., Gentry, R.L., Bergman, W.P., and Hammel, H.T., 1976, Heat loss in penguins during immersion and compression. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 54A: 75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lewis, T, 1930, Observations upon the reactions of the vessels of the human skin to cold. Heart 15: 177.Google Scholar
  13. McNab, B.K., 1966, An analysis of the body temperature of birds. Condor 68: 47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Stahel, CD., and Nicol, S.C., 1982, Temperature regulation in the Little penguin, Eudyptula minor, in air and water. J. Comp. Physiol. 148: 93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Weathers, W.W., 1979, Climatic adaptation in avian standard metabolic rate. Oecologia (Berlin) 42: 81.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bjørn Munro Jenssen
    • 1
  • Morten Ekker
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of TrondheimDragvollNorway

Personalised recommendations