Basal metabolism is correlated with habitat productivity among populations of degus (Octodon degus)

Francisco Bozinovic, José M. Rojas, Bernardo R. Broitman, Rodrigo A. Vásquez

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52 Scopus citations


Several competing hypotheses attempt to explain how environmental conditions affect mass-independent basal metabolic rate (BMR) in mammals. One of the most inclusive is the hypothesis that associates BMR with food habits, including habitat productivity. The effects of food habits have been widely investigated at the interspecific level, and variation between individuals and populations has been largely ignored. Intraspecific analysis of physiological traits has the potential to compensate for many pitfalls associated with interspecific analyses and serve as a useful approach for evaluating hypotheses regarding metabolic adaptation. Here we tested the effects of climatic variables (mean annual rainfall = PP, mean annual temperature = TA), net primary productivity (NPP) and the de Martonne index (DMi) of aridity on mass-independent BMR among four populations of the caviomorph rodent Octodon degus along a geographic gradient in Chile. BMR was measured on animals maintained in a common garden acclimation set-up, thus kept under the same environment and diet quality for at least 6 months. Mass-independent BMR was significantly different among degu populations showing a large intraspecific spread in metabolic rates. A very large fraction of interpopulational variability in mass-independent BMR was explained by NPP, PP and DMi. Our results were conclusive about the effects of habitat productivity on setting the level of mass-independent BMR at the intraspecific-interpopulational level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)560-564
Number of pages5
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2009


  • Energetics
  • Food habit hypothesis
  • Interpopulational/Intraspecific physiological variability
  • Octodon degus (Rodentia, Octodontidae)


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