Physiological responses of wild zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) to heatwaves

Christine Elizabeth Cooper, Laura Leilani Hurley, Pierre Deviche, Simon Charles Griffith

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8 Citations (Scopus)
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Desert birds inhabit hot, dry environments that are becoming hotter and drier as a consequence of climate change. Extreme weather such as heatwaves can cause mass-mortality events that may significantly impact populations and species. There are currently insufficient data concerning physiological plasticity to inform models of species' response to extreme events and develop mitigation strategies. Consequently, we examine here the physiological plasticity of a small desert bird in response to hot (mean maximum ambient temperature=42.7°C) and cooler (mean maximum ambient temperature=31.4°C) periods during a single Austral summer. We measured body mass, metabolic rate, evaporative water loss and body temperature, along with blood parameters (corticosterone, glucose and uric acid) of wild zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) to assess their physiological state and determine the mechanisms by which they respond to heatwaves. Hot days were not significant stressors; they did not result in modification of baseline blood parameters or an inability to maintain body mass, provided drinking water was available. During heatwaves, finches shifted their thermoneutral zone to higher temperatures. They reduced metabolic heat production, evaporative water loss and wet thermal conductance, and increased hyperthermia, especially when exposed to high ambient temperature. A consideration of the significant physiological plasticity that we have demonstrated to achieve more favourable heat and water balance is essential for effectively modelling and planning for the impacts of climate change on biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb225524
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Blood parameters
  • Climate change
  • Evaporative water loss
  • Metabolic rate
  • Physiological stress
  • Temperature


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