Oral presentation- Open Session 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Hot lunches for herbivores: How herbivorous diets interact with thermoregulation. (#165)

Phillipa Beale 1 , Bill Foley 1 , Karen Ford 1 , Ben Moore 2 , Patrice Kurnath 3
  1. Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  2. Hawksbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, United States of America

The diet of mammalian herbivores poses a number of challenges unique to having an herbivorous diet, and at the same time thermoregulating. I will present mechanisms by which thermoregulation is influenced by herbivorous diets, especially through the action of plant secondary compounds. Using the Australian marsupial possum-eucalypt study system, I will provide evidence for temperature dependent toxicity in wild folivores consuming plants rich in plant secondary compounds. I will also show that plant secondary compounds can uncouple mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation interfering with energy metabolism and leading to excess body heat production. Furthermore, since a mammal’s ability to thermoregulate depends on sensing the thermal environment and responding appropriately, the binding of plant secondary metabolites to thermoreceptors can disrupt this process. Balancing of nutrients, and consuming a high fiber diet also interacts with thermoregulation in mammals consuming plants. I will discuss these phenomena in mammalian herbivores in general and how the interaction between plant based diets and thermoregulation means nutritional ecology and patterns of herbivory will likely change in a dynamic way as our climate changes in the future.