Annual cycles of metabolic rate are genetically determined but can be shifted by phenotypic flexibility

Versteegh, M.A., Helm, B., Gwinner, E. and Tieleman, B.I. (2012) Annual cycles of metabolic rate are genetically determined but can be shifted by phenotypic flexibility. Journal of Experimental Biology, 215(19), pp. 3459-3466. (doi: 10.1242/jeb.073445)

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Abstract

Birds have adjusted their life history and physiological traits to the characteristics of the seasonally changing environments they inhabit. Annual cycles in physiology can result from phenotypic flexibility or from variation in its genetic basis. A key physiological trait that shows seasonal variation is basal metabolic rate (BMR). We studied genetic and phenotypic variation in the annual cycles of body mass, BMR and mass-specific BMR in three stonechat subspecies (Saxicola torquata) originating from environments that differ in seasonality, and in two hybrid lines. Birds were kept in a common garden set-up, under annually variable day length and at constant temperature. We also studied whether stonechats use the proximate environmental factor temperature as a cue for changes in metabolic rate, by keeping birds at two different temperature regimes. We found that the different subspecies kept in a common environment had different annual cycles of body mass, BMR (variance: Kazakh 4.12, European 1.31, Kenyans 1.25) and mass-specific BMR (variance: Kazakh 0.042, European 0.003, Kenyans 0.013). Annual variation in metabolic measures of hybrids was intermediate or similar to that of parental species. Temperature treatment did not affect the shape of the annual cycles of metabolic rate, but metabolic rate was higher in birds kept under the variable temperature regime. The distinct annual cycles in body mass and metabolic rate in stonechat subspecies kept in a common environment indicate different genetic backgrounds rather than merely a phenotypically flexible response to proximate environmental cues. Phenotypic effects of temperature are superimposed on this genetically orchestrated annual cycle.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Helm, Dr Barbara
Authors: Versteegh, M.A., Helm, B., Gwinner, E., and Tieleman, B.I.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Journal of Experimental Biology
ISSN:0022-0949
Published Online:05 July 2012

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