Effect of acute exposure to high ambient temperature on the thermal, metabolic and hygric physiology of a small desert bird

C. E. Cooper*, L. L. Hurley, S. C. Griffith

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)


    The intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as heat waves, are increasing as a consequence of global warming. Acute periods of extreme heat can be more problematic for wildlife than a chronic increase in mean temperature, to which animals can potentially acclimatise. Predicting effects of heat exposure requires a clear understanding of the capacity of individuals to respond to heat waves, so we examined the physiological response of a small desert bird, the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), after acute previous exposure to high ambient temperature, simulating heatwave-like conditions. The standard physiology of the zebra finches was unaffected by prior exposure to heatwave-type conditions, suggesting that periodic exposure to heatwaves is unlikely to impact their longer-term day-to-day energy and water requirements. When finches were thermally challenged, prior experience of heatwave-like conditions did not impact overall body temperature and evaporative water loss, but birds previously experiencing high temperatures did reduce their metabolic heat production, and the variance in water loss and metabolism between individuals was significantly lower. This suggests that some individuals are more likely to become dehydrated if they have not had prior experience of high temperatures, and do not prioritise water conservation over thermoregulation. However, our observations overall suggest that acute periods of heat exposure do little to modify the general physiology of small birds, supporting the hypothesis that periodic extreme heat events may be more problematic for them than chronic warming.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number110684
    Pages (from-to)1-6
    Number of pages6
    JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular and Integrative Physiology
    Early online date27 Feb 2020
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


    • Acclimation
    • Body temperature
    • Evaporative water loss
    • Heatwave
    • Metabolic rate
    • Zebra finch


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