Rezende EL, Chappell MA , Hammond KA (2004). Cold-acclimation in Peromyscus: temporal effects and individual variation in maximum metabolims and ventilatory traits. Journal of Experimental Biology 207: 295-305
Thermal acclimation in small endotherms provides an excellent model for the study of physiological plasticity, as energy requirements can be easily manipulated and the results are relevant for natural conditions. Nevertheless, how physiology changes throughout acclimation, and how individuals vary in their response to acclimation, remain poorly understood. Here we describe a high temporal-resolution study of cold acclimation in the deer mouse Peromyscus maniculatus. The experimental design was based on repeated measures at short intervals throughout cold acclimation, with controls (maintained at constant temperature) for measurement artifacts. We monitored body mass, maximum metabolic rate in cold exposure and ventilatory traits (respiratory frequency, tidal and minute volume and oxygen extraction) for 3 weeks at 23°C. Then, half of the individuals were held for 7 weeks at 5°C. Body mass was differently affected by cold acclimation depending on sex. Maximal metabolism (VO2max) increased significantly during the first week of cold acclimation, `overshot' after 5 weeks and dropped to a plateau about 34% above control values at week 7. Similarly, ventilatory traits increased during cold acclimation, though responses were different in their kinetics and magnitude. Body mass, maximum metabolism, and most ventilatory traits were repeatable after 7 weeks in control and cold-acclimated animals. However, repeatability tended to be lower in the cold-acclimated group, especially while animals were still acclimating. Our results show that acclimation effects may be under- and/or overestimated, depending on when trials are performed, and that different traits respond differently, and at different rates, to acclimation. Hence, future studies should be designed to ensure that animals have attained steady-state values in acclimation experiments.