Daily and seasonal variations in physiological characteristics of mammals can be considered adaptations to temporal habitat variables. Across different ecosystems, physiological adjustments are expected to be sensitive to different environmental signals such as changes in photoperiod, temperature or water and food availability; the relative importance of a particular signal being dependent on the ecosystem in question. Energy intake, oxygen consumption (VO2) and body temperature (Tb) daily rhythms were compared between two populations of the broad-toothed field mouse Apodemus mystacinus, one from a Mediterranean and another from a sub-Alpine ecosystem. Mice were acclimated to short-day (SD) 'winter' and long-day (LD) 'summer' photoperiods under different levels of salinity simulating osmotic challenges. Mediterranean mice had higher VO2 values than sub-Alpine mice. In addition, mice exposed to short days had higher VO2 values when given water with a high salinity compared with mice exposed to long days. By comparison, across both populations, increasing salinity resulted in a decreased Tb in SD- but not in LD-mice. Thus, SD-mice may conserve energy by decreasing Tb during ('winter') conditions which are expected to be cool, whereas LD-mice might do the opposite and maintain a higher Tb during ('summer') conditions which are expected to be warm. LD-mice behaved to reduce energy expenditure, which might be considered a useful trait during 'summer' conditions. Overall, increasing salinity was a clear signal for Mediterranean-mice with resultant effects on VO2 and Tb daily rhythms but had less of an effect on sub-Alpine mice, which were more responsive to changes in photoperiod. Results provide an insight into how different populations respond physiologically to various environmental challenges.
ASJC Scopus subject areas