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Physiol Biochem Zool. 2011 May-Jun;84(3):333-40. doi: 10.1086/660084.

Comparative energetics of the giant hummingbird (Patagona gigas).

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Department of Integrative Biology and Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.


Hummingbirds (family Trochilidae) represent an extreme outcome in vertebrate physiological design and are the only birds capable of sustained hovering. The giant hummingbird (Patagona gigas) is the largest trochilid, with a mass of ~20 g, and is found over an altitudinal range from 0 to 4,500 m above sea level. We report here measurements of daily, basal, and hovering rates of oxygen consumption in the giant hummingbird; compare these values with data from smaller hummingbirds; and assess overall metabolic and allometric limits to trochilid body size. The sustained metabolic scope (i.e., the ratio of daily energy expenditure to basal metabolic rate) in the giant hummingbird is higher than that in smaller hummingbirds but lies below a proposed theoretical maximum value for endotherms. Scaling exponents in the allometric relationships for different modes of energetic expenditure were comparable, suggesting that the giant hummingbird, although a clear outlier in terms of body size, does not obviously deviate from metabolic relationships derived from other trochilid taxa.

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