Two free-living seabirds (the African penguin Spheniscus demersus and the bank cormorant Phalacrocorax neglectus) were equipped with stomach temperature-loggers to study body temperature changes during foraging. Body temperature in these endotherms was environmentally and activity-dependent and varied in the case of the cormorant by over 5 degrees C. Considerations of heat flux show that such flexibility confers considerable energetic advantages: by allowing body temperature to drop when the heat loss to the environment is high, such as in water, birds may save the energy that would normally be necessary to compensate for this drop. It appears that, in cormorants, low body temperature resulting from extended time in water can subsequently be elevated using solar energy when birds return to land in a manner similar to that of ectotherms. In the better-insulated penguins, muscle-generated heat during swimming is used to re-elevate low body temperature. Continued swimming eventually causes body temperature to rise above normal resting levels so that metabolic rate could theoretically be dramatically reduced immediately post-exercise when the temperature drops to some critical level before any increase in metabolism is necessary to correct it.
Body temperatures of free-living African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) and bank cormorants (Phalacrocorax neglectus).
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R P Wilson, D Grémillet; Body temperatures of free-living African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) and bank cormorants (Phalacrocorax neglectus).. J Exp Biol 1 October 1996; 199 (10): 2215–2223. doi: https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.199.10.2215
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