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J Exp Biol. 2000 Feb;203(Pt 4):803-11.

Effects of complex radiative and convective environments on the thermal biology of the white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii).

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Department of Biology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-1501, USA.


The energy budgets of small endotherms are profoundly affected by characteristics of the physical environment such as wind speed, air temperature and solar radiation. Among these, solar radiation represents a potentially very large heat load to small animals and may have an important influence on their thermoregulatory metabolism and heat balance. In this investigation, we examined the interactive effects of wind speed and irradiance on body temperature, thermoregulatory metabolism and heat balance in the white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii). We measured changes in metabolic heat production by exposing birds to different wind speeds (0.25, 0.5, 1.0 and 2.0 m s(-1)) and irradiance combinations (<3 W m(-2) and 936+/-11 W m(-2); mean +/- s.d.) at an air temperature of 10 degrees C. Body temperature was not affected by wind speed, but was significantly higher in animals not exposed to simulated solar radiation compared with those exposed at most wind speeds. In the absence of solar radiation, metabolic heat production was strongly affected by wind speed and increased by 30 % from 122 to 159 W m(-2) as wind speed increased from 0.25 to 2.0 m s(-1). Metabolic heat production was even more strongly influenced by wind speed in the presence of simulated solar radiation and increased by 51% from 94 to 142 W m(-2) as wind speed increased from 0.25 to 2. 0 m s(-1). Solar heat gain was negatively correlated with wind speed and declined from 28 to 12 W m(-2) as wind speed increased from 0.25 to 2.0 m s(-1) and, at its maximum, equaled 11% of the radiation intercepted by the animal. The overall thermal impact of the various wind speed and irradiance combinations on the animal's heat balance was examined for each treatment. Under cold conditions, with no solar radiation present, an increase in wind speed from 0.25 to 2.0 m s(-1) was equivalent to a decrease in chamber air temperature of 12.7 degrees C. With simulated solar radiation present, a similar increase in wind speed was equivalent to a decrease in chamber air temperature of 16 degrees C. Overall, shifting environmental conditions from a wind speed of 0.25 m s(-1) and irradiance of 936 W m(-2) to a wind speed of 2.0 m s(-1) with no short-wave radiation present was equivalent to decreasing chamber air temperature by approximately 20 degrees C. The sensitivity to changes in the convective environment, combined with the complex effects of changes in irradiance levels revealed by re-analyzing data published previously, significantly complicates the task of estimating the heat balance of animals in nature.

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