Redefining physiological responses of moose (Alces alces) to warm environmental conditions
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We tested the concept that moose (Alces alces) begin to show signs of thermal stress at ambient air temperatures as low as 14 °C. We determined the response of Alaskan female moose to environmental conditions from May through September by measuring core body temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, rate of heat loss from exhaled air, skin temperature, and fecal and salivary glucocorticoids. Seasonal and daily patterns in moose body temperature did not passively follow the same patterns as environmental variables. We used large changes in body temperature (≥1.25 °C in 24hr) to indicate days of physiological tolerance to thermal stressors. Thermal tolerance correlated with high ambient air temperatures from the prior day and with seasonal peaks in solar radiation (June), ambient air temperature and vapor pressure (July). At midday (12:00hr), moose exhibited daily minima of body temperature, heart rate and skin temperature (difference between the ear artery and pinna) that coincided with daily maxima in respiration rate and the rate of heat lost through respiration. Salivary cortisol measured in moose during the morning was positively related to the change in air temperature during the hour prior to sample collection, while fecal glucocorticoid levels increased with increasing solar radiation during the prior day. Our results suggest that free-ranging moose do not have a static threshold of ambient air temperature at which they become heat stressed during the warm season. In early summer, body temperature of moose is influenced by the interaction of ambient temperature during the prior day with the seasonal peak of solar radiation. In late summer, moose body temperature is influenced by the interaction between ambient temperature and vapor pressure. Thermal tolerance of moose depends on the intensity and duration of daily weather parameters and the ability of the animal to use physiological and behavioral responses to dissipate heat loads.
author list (cited authors)
Thompson, D. P., Crouse, J. A., Jaques, S., & Barboza, P. S.