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Title: Developmental phenotypic plasticity in a marsupial
Contributor(s): Riek, Alexander (author); Geiser, Fritz  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2012
Open Access: Yes
DOI: 10.1242/jeb.069559Open Access Link
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Abstract: Climate change is likely to substantially affect the distribution ranges of species. However, little is known about how different mammalian taxa respond morphologically and physiologically to a rapid change of climate. Our objective was to provide the first quantitative data on the effect of continuous cold exposure during development on morphological and functional variables of a marsupial. Fat-tailed dunnarts ('Sminthopsis crassicaudata', Dasyuridae) were reared at an ambient temperature (Ta) of 16°C [cold-reared (CR)] or 22°C [warm-reared (WR)] until they reached adult age (>200 days). Body and head length of CR animals were significantly longer than in WR animals (mean ± s.e.m.; body: CR 80.8±6mm, WR 76.4±5mm; head: CR 29.4±3mm, WR 27.5±2mm), but other body attributes were not significantly different. Use of torpor was more frequent, torpor bout duration was longer and average daily metabolic rate and percentage of savings when using torpor were significantly higher (P<0.01) in CR than in WR animals at 16°C Ta but not at 24°C. Furthermore, resting metabolic rates measured at 16°C Ta were significantly lower in CR than WR animals; at 30°C Ta values were similar. Our results do not conform to Allen's rule, but to some extent they do conform to Bergmann's rule. However, the data demonstrate that a relatively moderate cold exposure from birth until adulthood induces marked changes in the morphology and thermal energetics of small marsupials. Such short-term phenotypic responses without the need for long-term selection are likely important for the ability to cope with different climates over a wide range of distribution, but will also play a crucial role in enhancing the survival of species during climate change.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: The Journal of Experimental Biology, 215(9), p. 1552-1558
Publisher: The Company of Biologists Ltd
Place of Publication: Cambridge, United Kingdom
ISSN: 1477-9145
Field of Research (FOR): 060806 Animal Physiological Ecology
060604 Comparative Physiology
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO): 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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