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Seasonal acclimatization to temperature in cardueline finches

II. Changes in body composition and mass in relation to season and acute cold stress


  1. 1.

    Seasonal variation in body constituents and utilization of lipid, protein, and carbohydrate during cold stress in American goldfinches were studied to determine relations of these functions to the pronounced seasonal shift in thermogenic capacity documented in a previous study (Dawson and Carey, 1976).

  2. 2.

    Mean body mass for adults increases from a low of 11.4 g in July to a high of 15.1 g in December and January. Seasonal variation in lipid content accounts for the major part of the observed changes in body mass, but such variation in water and protein content is also appreciable.

  3. 3.

    Linoleic acid (18∶2) is the predominant fatty acid in neutral lipids of liver, pectoralis muscle, and furcular depots at all seasons. Unsaturated fatty acids comprise a much greater proportion of total fatty acids in liver and pectoralis muscle during winter (71% and 73%, respectively) than in spring or fall.

  4. 4.

    Fasting winter goldfinches exposed to −10°C for 17 h overnight utilize significant amounts of body lipid. However, total body protein, liver and pectoralis muscle carbohydrate, and pectoralis muscle fatty acids do not differ significantly between control and cold-stressed individuals.

  5. 5.

    Glycogen stores in the pectoralis muscles are significantly higher in winter than in summer birds. Winter goldfinches exposed to −70°C utilize significant amounts of total body lipids and pectoralis glycogen. Birds tested in this manner in summer do not do so and quickly become hypothermic.

  6. 6.

    Histochemical characteristics and succinate oxidase activities of pectoralis muscles do not vary appreciably over the year.

  7. 7.

    Increased stores of body lipid and muscle carbohydrate and the ability to mobilize these substrates rapidly during cold stress seem to be key factors in the superior thermogenic capacities of winter goldfinches.

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Carey, C., Dawson, W.R., Maxwell, L.C. et al. Seasonal acclimatization to temperature in cardueline finches. J Comp Physiol B 125, 101–113 (1978). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00686746

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  • Linoleic Acid
  • Cold Stress
  • Total Fatty Acid
  • Body Lipid
  • Seasonal Shift