When nonshivering thermogenesis equals maximum metabolic rate: thermal acclimation and phenotypic plasticity of fossorial Spalacopus cyanus (Rodentia)

Physiol Biochem Zool. May-Jun 2001;74(3):325-32. doi: 10.1086/320420.


Many small mammals inhabiting fluctuating and cold environments display enhanced capacity for seasonal changes in nonshivering thermogenesis (NST) and thermoregulatory maximum metabolic rate (MMR). However, it is not known how this plasticity remains in a mammal that rarely experiences extreme thermal fluctuations. In order to answer this question, we determined body mass (m(b)), basal metabolic rate (BMR), NST, MMR, and minimum thermal conductance (C) on a Chilean fossorial caviomorph (Spalacopus cyanus) from a coastal population, acclimated to cold (15 degrees C) and warm (30 degrees C) conditions. NST was measured as the maximum response of metabolic rate (NST(max)) after injection of norepinephrine (NE) in thermoneutrality minus BMR. Maximum metabolic rate was assessed in animals exposed to enhanced heat-loss atmosphere (He-O2) connected with an open-flow respirometer. Body mass and metabolic variables increased significantly after cold acclimation with respect to warm acclimation but to a low extent (BMR, 26%; NST, 10%; and MMR, 12%). However, aerobic scope (MMR/BMR), calculated shivering thermogenesis (ST), and C did not change with acclimation regime. Our data suggest that physiological plasticity of S. cyanus is relatively low, which is in accordance with a fossorial mode of life. Although little is known about MMR and NST in fossorial mammals, S. cyanus has remarkably high NST; low MMR; and surprisingly, a nil capacity of ST when compared with other rodents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization
  • Animals
  • Basal Metabolism
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Body Weight
  • Chile
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mammals
  • Rodentia / physiology*
  • Shivering / physiology
  • Temperature