Research on temperature and behaviour

 

Physiological thermoregulation in the heat is costly for endotherms. Changes in behaviour (e.g. reduction in activity) and microsite selection (choosing shaded, cool locations in the landscape) can reduce some of these costs by reducing the animal’s ‘heat load’. However, these strategies (collectively called ‘behavioural thermoregulation’) carry their own baggage. Here we investigate what are the fitness payoff of behavioural thermoregulation. 

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Research to develop a behavioural index of physiological stress: HD50

 

This aspect of Hot Birds research project seeks to validate a behavioural index of vulnerability to heat stress in birds inhabiting hot desert environments. We are busy testing predictions that relate heat dissipation behaviours to underlying changes in body temperature and hydration status in model species that vary in terms of the relationship between environmental temperature and heat dissipation behaviours. Our aim is to outline physiological payoffs of heat stress by observing behaviour.

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Research on temperature and physiology

 

Desert birds routinely experience air temperatures that exceed their normal body temperatures, and under conditions of intense solar radiation may need to defend body temperatures 15-20 °C below operative temperature. Relatively little is known about the upper limits to avian heat tolerance and evaporative cooling capacity.

Click here to find out what research has the Hot Birds Project undertaking to fill this gap.    

 

Research in the Fynbos biome

 

The Fynbos biome of South Africa is a global biodiversity hotspot. Famous mostly for its floral diversity, it is also home to seven endemic bird species. Fynbos is found from the mountains to the coast in the southwestern corner of South Africa, occurring within a Mediterranean climate zone. Climate warming in the Fynbos has been non-uniform to date with inland mountainous areas showing the strongest warming trends.

The Hot Birds project made its first foray into the Fynbos in 2013. Click here to find out more about our research on climate change and Fynbos birds.