Comparison of physiological responses to high temperatures in juvenile and adult Cape Rockjumpers Chaetops frenatus
Concerns about climate change have led to an increase in studies on physiological mechanisms birds possess to cope with increasing temperatures. For range-restricted species such as Cape Rockjumpers Chaetops frenatus, whose population declines are correlated with habitat warming, we identified juvenile physiological responses to high temperature as a potential gap in current knowledge. We compared metabolic rate, evaporative water loss, evaporative cooling efficiency (calculated from evaporative water loss and resting metabolic rate) and body temperature in juveniles (n = 5) with adult birds (n = 10) to a ramped temperature profile (30–42 °C). Although juveniles exhibited no significant difference in cooling efficiency, they had higher evaporative water loss, resting metabolic rate and body temperature. This suggests that while juvenile birds show similar abilities to dissipate metabolic heat evaporatively, they face higher overall water and energy demands, and thus higher thermoregulatory costs in maintaining body temperature as overall temperatures continue to increase.
Keywords: avian physiology, climate change, climate relict, juvenile physiology, South Africa endemic