Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 188, Issue 4, pp 707–716 | Cite as

Staying hot to fight the heat-high body temperatures accompany a diurnal endothermic lifestyle in the tropics

  • Danielle L. Levesque
  • Andrew Alek Tuen
  • Barry G. Lovegrove
Original Paper


Much of our knowledge of the thermoregulation of endotherms has been obtained from species inhabiting cold and temperate climates, our knowledge of the thermoregulatory physiology of tropical endotherms is scarce. We studied the thermoregulatory physiology of a small, tropical mammal, the large treeshrew (Tupaia tana, Order Scandentia) by recording the body temperatures of free-ranging individuals, and by measuring the resting metabolic rates of wild individuals held temporarily in captivity. The amplitude of daily body temperature (~ 4 °C) was higher in treeshrews than in many homeothermic eutherian mammals; a consequence of high active-phase body temperatures (~ 40 °C), and relatively low rest-phase body temperatures (~ 36 °C). We hypothesized that high body temperatures enable T. tana to maintain a suitable gradient between ambient and body temperature to allow for passive heat dissipation, important in high-humidity environments where opportunities for evaporative cooling are rare. Whether this thermoregulatory phenotype is unique to Scandentians, or whether other warm-climate diurnal small mammals share similar thermoregulatory characteristics, is currently unknown.


Body temperature Endothermy Heterothermy Scandentia Thermoregulation Tropics 



Basal metabolic rate


Dry thermal conductance (mO2·°C−1·h−1)


Wet thermal conductance (mO2·°C−1·h−1)


Evaporative heat loss (W)


Evaporative water loss (mg·g−1·h−1)


Heterothermy index


Metabolic heat production (W)


Resting metabolic rate


Ambient temperature (respirometer temperature or environmental temperature)


Core body temperature


Lower limit of the TNZ


Subcutaneous temperature


Thermoneutral zone


Volumetric rate of oxygen consumed by the animal (mO2·h−1)



We wish to thank the following individuals and institutions for their assistance: the Bidayuh communities of Kampung Tanjong Bowang and Kampung Barieng, Singai, Bau District, for the use of their forest; Mary Buloh Balang, Shaun Welman, Cindy Peter, Cecilia Emang Ajeng, Matthew Jenang, and Yap Pui Kwan, for their assistance in the field; and Michelle Bassis for help with the body temperature/activity database.

Author contributions

DLL, AAT and BGL conceived and designed the study. DLL and AAT secured the permits and performed the data collection. DLL analysed the data and drafted the manuscript. All authors contributed critically to the drafts and gave final approval for publication.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical standards

All procedures involving the use of animals were approved by the Animal Research Ethics Committee of the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (061/13/Animal), Sarawak Forestry Department and the Malaysian Ministry of Natural Resources (permit no. NCCD.907.4.4(9)-223, and NCCD.907.4.4(JLD.13)-227), and comply with all local laws. The research was supported by the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education (FRGS/1/2013/ST03/UNIMAS/01/2), the UNIMAS Postdoctoral Scheme (DLL), and incentive grants from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the National Research Foundation (South Africa) to BGL.

Supplementary material

360_2018_1160_MOESM1_ESM.docx (805 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 804 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental ConservationUniversiti Malaysia SarawakKota SamarahanMalaysia
  2. 2.School of Biology and EcologyUniversity of MaineOronoUSA
  3. 3.School of Life SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalScottsvilleSouth Africa

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