Physiological responses in rufous-collared sparrows to thermal acclimation and seasonal acclimatization

J Comp Physiol B. 2009 Apr;179(3):335-43. doi: 10.1007/s00360-008-0317-1. Epub 2008 Nov 15.


A large number of physiological acclimation studies assume that flexibility in a certain trait is both adaptive and functionally important for organisms in their natural environment; however, it is not clear how an organism's capacity for temperature acclimation translates to the seasonal acclimatization that these organisms must accomplish. To elucidate this relationship, we measured BMR and TEWL rates in both field-acclimatized and laboratory-acclimated adult rufous-collared sparrows (Zonotrichia capensis). Measurements in field-acclimatized birds were taken during the winter and summer seasons; in the laboratory-acclimated birds, we took our measurements following 4 weeks at either 15 or 30 degrees C. Although BMR and TEWL rates did not differ between winter and summer in the field-acclimatized birds, laboratory-acclimated birds exposed to 15 degrees C exhibited both a higher BMR and TEWL rate when compared to the birds acclimated to 30 degrees C and the field-acclimatized birds. Because organ masses seem to be similar between field and cold-acclimated birds whereas BMR is higher in cold-acclimated birds, the variability in BMR cannot be explained completely by adjustments in organ masses. Our findings suggest that, although rufous-collared sparrows can exhibit thermal acclimation of physiological traits, sparrows do not use this capacity to cope with minor to moderate fluctuations in environmental conditions. Our data support the hypothesis that physiological flexibility in energetic traits is a common feature of avian metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Basal Metabolism
  • Chile
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Seasons*
  • Sparrows / physiology*
  • Water Loss, Insensible / physiology