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Revista chilena de historia natural

Print version ISSN 0716-078X


KENAGY, G.J.; NESPOLO, ROBERTO F.; VASQUEZ, RODRIGO A.  and  BOZINOVIC, FRANCISCO. Daily and seasonal limits of time and temperature to activity of degus. Rev. chil. hist. nat. [online]. 2002, vol.75, n.3, pp.567-581. ISSN 0716-078X.

We present an analysis of behavioral flexibility in a day-active caviomorph rodent, the degu, Octodon degus, in response to temporal (daily and seasonal), spatial, and thermal heterogeneity of its environment. We quantified activity and foraging behavior in a population, together with thermal conditions, in an open habitat in the seasonally hot and arid matorral of central Chile. Summer activity was bimodal, with a gap of more than 8 h between the morning bout of 2.5 h of intensive foraging and the afternoon bout of 2 h. More than half of the 4.5 h of summer activity occurred in the shade of early morning or late afternoon when the sun was below the local skyline. Autumn and spring activity were also bimodal, but with greater proportions of activity under direct solar radiation, and with a shorter midday gap between the two major bouts. Winter activity was unimodal and all occurred under direct solar radiation. In summer, autumn, and spring the activity of degus was curtailed as our index of operative temperature, Te, moved above 40 ºC. We used a single measurement of Te (measured in a thermal mannequin representing degu size, shape and surface properties) as an index of the interactive effects of solar radiation and convection on body temperature. At the winter solstice (June), when degus remained fully exposed to solar radiation throughout the day, Te generally remained below 30 ºC. Flexibility in the timing of surface activity allows degus to maintain thermal homeostasis and energy balance throughout the year. Degus shift the times of daily onset and end of activity and the number of major bouts (unimodal or bimodal) over the course of the year. They remain active on the surface under a much narrower range or "window" of thermal conditions than those that occur over the entire broad range of the day and year

Keywords : foraging; seasonality; thermal ecology; forrajeo.

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