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Am J Physiol. 1987 Jul;253(1 Pt 2):R39-45.

Adaptation to extreme ambient temperatures in cold-acclimated gerbils and mice.


To explain tolerance of heat and cold in gerbils (Gerbillus campestris) in their natural environment, a comparative study was made of thermoregulatory reactions in these animals and white mice (Mus musculus) of the same body mass exposed for 2-3 h to ambient temperatures (Ta) ranging from -23 to 40 degrees C. Metabolic rate (MR), evaporative heat loss (EHL), colonic temperature (Tb), and electromyographic activity (EMG) were measured. Nonshivering thermogenesis (NST) was also evaluated from the increase in MR after norepinephrine injection. In gerbils, tolerance of cold was higher than in mice; there was no fall in Tb in cold-acclimated (CA) and control (TN) gerbils after 3 h of exposure at -20 and -10 degrees C Ta, respectively; peak MR (PMR) reached five to six times resting MR (RMR) in gerbils and four to five times in mice. In gerbils, RMR was 35% below that of mice. In TN gerbils, EHL did not increase before 38 degrees C Ta; EHL increased at 26 degrees C in mice. In both animals, cold acclimation increased cold tolerance, PMR, RMR, and NST. Low RMR, high Tb, and mainly burrowing habits preserve gerbils from overheating and save water in hot and arid environments, and a conspicuous tolerance of cold allows them to live and forage in the wild during the cold night.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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