Small mammals that inhabit arid and temporally unproductive environments use several methods to conserve energy. Here, we investigate the energetic role of sun basking in striped mice Rhabdomys pumilio from the Succulent Karoo desert in South Africa. We observed mice in front of their nests for 140 h and recorded the time they spent basking during the non-breeding (dry) and the breeding (wet) seasons. We measured temperature changes in model mice to provide an indication of the heat that can be absorbed from the sun. Finally, we measured the oxygen consumption (circle dot O-2) of mice at their basking sites in the field both in the sun and in the shade. This was accomplished using a portable respirometry system with a metabolism chamber, which could be placed in and out of the sun. Observations showed that mice basked more often during the non-breeding than during the breeding season. During the former season, mice spent an average of 11.9 +/- 1.1 min (se) in the morning and 5.5 +/- 0.5 min in the afternoon per day basking. Within the metabolism chamber, circle dot O-2 decreased when the animal was in the sunshine compared with the shade. This effect occurred independent of the ambient temperature (T-a), indicating that a significant amount of radiant energy was absorbed from the sun. Basking may be an alternative to other energy-acquisition behaviours, such as foraging, which might be particularly useful at times when food is scarce.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics