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Ecology. 2008 Dec;89(12):3306-16.

Climate and resource determinants of fundamental and realized metabolic niches of hibernating chipmunks.

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Natural Resource Sciences, Macdonald Campus, McGill University, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec H9X 3V9, Canada.


Torpor is a reversible reduction in endotherm body temperature and metabolic rate. Because torpid endotherms can attain lower body temperatures in colder environments, minimum torpor metabolism generally increases with rising air temperature whereas euthermic metabolism generally declines with rising air temperature. As a result, the fundamental metabolic niche of endotherms that express torpor should be driven by climate and should be broadest in colder environments. On the other hand, if torpor serves primarily as an energy conservation strategy and its expression is influenced by energy availability, then the realized metabolic niche should be defined by resources. To evaluate the influence of resource and climate on torpor use and metabolism of hibernating mammals, we monitored the torpor expression of free-ranging eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) over two winters of varying resource abundance. In the low-food year, soil temperature constrained maximum torpor expression but was too invariant across small spatial scales to explain individual variation in torpor expression. In the high-food year, torpor was drastically reduced, and local density of seed-producing trees predicted fine-scale spatial variation in torpor expression. Thus, the fundamental metabolic niche of hibernating chipmunks in cold environments is broad and constrained by climate, whereas the realized metabolic niche is highly variable among individuals and years and is determined primarily by local resource abundance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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