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Physiol Biochem Zool. 1999 Jan-Feb;72(1):57-63.

Behavioural postures and the rate of body temperature change in wild freshwater crocodiles, Crocodylus johnstoni.

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Department of Zoology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.


I recorded body temperature and behaviour of eight Crocodylus johnstoni in the wild over a 2-yr period in order to quantify the effect of posturing on body temperature and to provide a mechanistic explanation of how behaviour affects body temperature. Behaviour was categorised according to the proportion of a crocodile's surface area exposed from the water (0% exposed [=diving] to 100% exposed [=basking]). Crocodiles did not simply shuttle between the extremes of 100% exposed and diving but showed an array of intermediate postures. Rates of body temperature change were negative for exposures less than 40% and positive for 60%-100% exposed. This was due to the difference between operative temperature and body temperature, which was negative during diving but increased with the percentage of exposure, up to 25 degrees-30 degrees C during basking. For any particular posture, the rate of body temperature change decreased with increasing mass. Thermal time constants were shortest during diving and longest during basking. A heat-transfer equation predicted the rate of body temperature change well, except that it underestimated the rate of body temperature change during 80% and 100% exposed. Exposing only a small part of their body when in water (20%) slowed heat loss considerably, allowing crocodiles to spend more time in the water while maintaining body temperature within their preferred body temperature range.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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