Metabolic, ventilatory and hygric physiology of the chuditch (Dasyurus geoffroii; Marsupialia, Dasyuridae)

Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2009 Sep;154(1):92-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2009.05.002. Epub 2009 May 15.


The chuditch is a large carnivorous dasyurid marsupial. Historically it had one of the widest geographical distributions of all marsupials, encompassing much of arid Australia, but it is now restricted to the mesic south-west of Western Australia. It is therefore of interest to determine if its physiology better reflects adaptation to its historically arid or present mesic habitat. The basic physiological parameters of the chuditch conform to other marsupials. Body mass of males (1385 g) was >400% of that predicted by phylogeny and this may be related to its carnivorous diet. Body temperature was 33.9 degrees C at ambient temperatures < or = thermoneutrality, with hyperthermia occurring above thermoneutrality. Basal metabolic rate was 0.361 mL O(2) g(-1) h(-1) at an ambient temperature of 31 degrees C. Metabolic rate increased below the thermoneutral zone by 0.038 mL O(2) g(-1) h(-1) degrees C(-1), and above the thermoneutral zone to 0.444+/-0.059 mL O(2) g(-1) h(-1) at 33.3 degrees C. Standard evaporative water loss was 0.498+/-0.071 mg g(-1) h(-1) at an ambient temperature of 26.0 degrees C, and increased at higher ambient temperatures due to panting and licking. Changes in wet thermal conductance largely reflected changes in evaporative heat loss, and dry thermal conductance increased at high ambient temperature due in part to posture change. Ventilatory parameters were consistent with metabolic demands in and below thermoneutrality, and suggested augmented evaporative heat loss above the thermoneutral zone. Chuditch had a high point of relative water economy of 22.6 degrees C, indicating favourable water economy at even moderate ambient temperatures, due to its low evaporative water loss rather than high metabolic water production. Chuditch were physiologically more similar to marsupials from arid rather than mesic habitats, better reflecting their historical distribution than their current geographical range.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Metabolism / physiology
  • Body Temperature / physiology
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology
  • Body Water / physiology
  • Desert Climate
  • Ecosystem
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Male
  • Marsupialia / physiology*
  • Pulmonary Ventilation / physiology
  • Water Loss, Insensible / physiology