Using implanted temperature loggers, we measured core body temperature in nine western grey kangaroos every 5 min for 24 to 98 days in spring and summer. Body temperature was highest at night and decreased rapidly early in the morning, reaching a nadir at 10:00 h, after ambient temperature and solar radiation had begun to increase. On hotter days, the minimum morning body temperature was lower than on cooler days, decreasing from a mean of 36.2°C in the spring to 34.0°C in the summer. This effect correlated better with the time of the year than with proximate thermal stressors, suggesting that either season itself or some factor correlated with season, such as food availability, caused the change. Water saving has been proposed as a selective advantage of heterothermy in other large mammals, but in kangaroos the water savings would have been small and not required in a reserve with permanent standing water. We calculate that the lower core temperature could provide energy savings of nearly 7%. It is likely that the heterothermy that we observed on hot days results either from decreased energy intake during the dry season or from a seasonal pattern entrained in the kangaroos that presumably has been selected for because of decreased energy availability during the dry season.
This research was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant to S.K.M. and D.M., by the office of the Vice-Chancellor (Research) at UWA and by the South African National Research Foundation.
- © 2011.