Mammalian Physiology

Plasticity pow!

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Science  21 Sep 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6408, pp. 1212-1213
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6408.1212-a

Tenrecs show remarkable variance in body temperature.

CREDIT: MATTHIJS KUIJPERS/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Mammals are known for being homeothermic, but by reducing metabolic rate and other activities, mammals that hibernate can greatly decrease their body temperature and still survive. Treat et al. found that Malagasy common tenrecs have a remarkable degree of physiological plasticity with respect to body temperature—some individuals hibernate at normal body temperatures, some are active at unusually low body temperatures, and others fall at many points in-between. They further found that oxygen consumption by tenrecs could vary by 25-fold and that their heart rates could decrease by 34% during hibernation with no change in oxygen consumption. Even pregnancy occurs at varying temperatures. Yet, the species is highly susceptible to temperature extremes, suggesting that although such plasticity presents advantages in moderate temperatures, it may be a limiting factor in adaptation to extremes.

J. Exp. Biol. 10.1242/jeb.185900 (2018).

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