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Evidence of Different Thermoregulatory Mechanisms between Two Sympatric Scarabaeus Species Using Infrared Thermography and Micro-Computer Tomography
Published: Monday, March 19, 2012
Author: José R. Verdú et al.

by José R. Verdú, Javier Alba-Tercedor, Mónica Jiménez-Manrique

In endotherms insects, the thermoregulatory mechanisms modulate heat transfer from the thorax to the abdomen to avoid overheating or cooling in order to obtain a prolonged flight performance. Scarabaeus sacer and S. cicatricosus, two sympatric species with the same habitat and food preferences, showed daily temporal segregation with S. cicatricosus being more active during warmer hours of the day in opposition to S. sacer who avoid it. In the case of S. sacer, their endothermy pattern suggested an adaptive capacity for thorax heat retention. In S. cicatricosus, an active ‘heat exchanger’ mechanism was suggested. However, no empirical evidence had been documented until now. Thermographic sequences recorded during flight performance showed evidence of the existence of both thermoregulatory mechanisms. In S. sacer, infrared sequences showed a possible heat insulator (passive thermal window), which prevents heat transfer from meso- and metathorax to the abdomen during flight. In S. cicatricosus, infrared sequences revealed clear and effective heat flow between the thorax and abdomen (abdominal heat transfer) that should be considered the main mechanism of thermoregulation. This was related to a subsequent increase in abdominal pumping (as a cooling mechanism) during flight. Computer microtomography scanning, anatomical dissections and internal air volume measurements showed two possible heat retention mechanisms for S. sacer; the abdominal air sacs and the development of the internal abdominal sternites that could explain the thermoregulation between thorax and abdomen. Our results suggest that interspecific interactions between sympatric species are regulated by very different mechanisms. These mechanisms create unique thermal niches for the different species, thereby preventing competition and modulating spatio-temporal distribution and the composition of dung beetle assemblages.
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