Are summit metabolism and thermogenic endurance correlated in winter-acclimatized passerine birds?

J Comp Physiol B. 2001 Aug;171(6):475-81. doi: 10.1007/s003600100197.


Small birds exhibiting marked winter improvement of cold tolerance also show elevated summit metabolic rates (maximum cold-induced metabolic rate) in winter relative to summer. However, relatively large increases in cold tolerance can occur with only minor increments of maximum cold-induced metabolic rate and geographic variation in cold tolerance is not always positively correlated with variation in maximum cold-induced metabolic rate. Thus, it is uncertain whether maximum cold-induced metabolic rate and cold tolerance are phenotypically correlated in small birds and no previous study has directly examined this relationship. I measured maximum cold-induced metabolic rate and cold tolerance (i.e., thermogenic endurance) over three winters in black-capped chickadees Poecile atricapillus, American tree sparrows Spizella arborea, and dark-eyed juncos Junco hyemalis. For raw thermogenic endurance data, residuals of maximum cold-induced metabolic rate and thermogenic endurance from mass regressions were significantly and positively correlated in juncos and tree sparrows, and their correlation approached significance for chickadees. Log10 transformation of thermogenic endurance and mass data gave similar results. These data provide the first direct evidence for a phenotypic correlation between maximum cold-induced metabolic rate and thermogenic endurance in small birds, although much of the variance in thermogenic endurance is explained by factors other than maximum cold-induced metabolic rate and the degree of correlation differs among species. Nevertheless, these data suggest that physiological adjustments producing elevated thermogenic endurance also produce elevated maximum cold-induced metabolic rate in small birds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Phenotype
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Seasons*
  • Songbirds / metabolism
  • Songbirds / physiology*
  • Thermogenesis / physiology*