Deep body and surface temperature responses to hot and cold environments in the zebra finch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Global warming increasingly challenges thermoregulation in endothermic animals, particularly in hot and dry environments where low water availability and high temperature increase the risk of hyperthermia. In birds, un-feathered body parts such as the head and bill work as ‘thermal windows’, because heat flux is higher compared to more insulated body regions. We studied how such structures were used in different thermal environments, and if heat flux properties change with time in a given temperature. We acclimated zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) to two different ambient temperatures, ‘cold’ (5 °C) and ‘hot’ (35 °C), and measured the response in core body temperature using a thermometer, and head surface temperature using thermal imaging. Birds in the hot treatment had 10.3 °C higher head temperature than those in the cold treatment. Thermal acclimation also resulted in heat storage in the hot group: core body temperature was 1.1 °C higher in the 35 °C group compared to the 5 °C group. Hence, the thermal gradient from core to shell was 9.03 °C smaller in the hot treatment. Dry heat transfer rate from the head was significantly lower in the hot compared to the cold treatment after four weeks of thermal acclimation. This reflects constraints on changes to peripheral circulation and maximum body temperature. Heat dissipation capacity from the head region increased with acclimation time in the hot treatment, perhaps because angiogenesis was required to reach peak heat transfer rate. We have shown that zebra finches meet high environmental temperature by heat storage, which saves water and energy, and by peripheral vasodilation in the head, which facilitates dry heat loss. These responses will not exclude the need for evaporative cooling, but will lessen the amount of energy expend on body temperature reduction in hot environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102776
JournalJournal of Thermal Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Ecology


  • (Max 6): heat dissipation
  • Hyperthermia
  • Thermal imaging
  • Thermal window
  • Thermoregulation
  • Zebra finch


Dive into the research topics of 'Deep body and surface temperature responses to hot and cold environments in the zebra finch'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this