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Activity modulation and selection for forests help giant anteaters to cope with temperature changes

Aline Giroux Orcid Logo, Zaida Ortega Orcid Logo, Nina Attias Orcid Logo, Arnaud Léonard Jean Desbiez Orcid Logo, Denis Valle Orcid Logo, Luca Borger Orcid Logo, Luiz Gustavo Rodrigues Oliveira-Santos Orcid Logo

Animal Behaviour, Volume: 201, Pages: 191 - 209

Swansea University Author: Luca Borger Orcid Logo

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Abstract

Mammals use thermoregulatory behavioural strategies to reduce the cost of physiological thermoregulation. Environmental temperatures should, therefore, impact their decisions. We investigated the effect of environmental temperature on the movement decisions of a large mammal with low capacity for ph...

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Published in: Animal Behaviour
ISSN: 0003-3472
Published: Elsevier BV 2023
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa63545
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Abstract: Mammals use thermoregulatory behavioural strategies to reduce the cost of physiological thermoregulation. Environmental temperatures should, therefore, impact their decisions. We investigated the effect of environmental temperature on the movement decisions of a large mammal with low capacity for physiological thermoregulation: the giant anteater, Myrmecophaga tridactyla. We GPS-tracked 14 giant anteaters in the Brazilian Pantanal wetland over 5 years. We used hidden Markov models to identify two behavioural states (encamping, as a proxy of resting, and moving, as a proxy of being active) across individuals' trajectories. Then, we estimated the effect of environmental temperature on the probability of moving across the hours of the day in open and forested habitats. We also used integrated step selection analysis to understand how environmental temperature drives giant anteater's habitat selection across the day. Giant anteaters showed three important behavioural thermoregulatory strategies in response to environmental temperature changes: they modulated activity duration, completely shifted activity period on a scale of days and selected forests as thermal shelters. With increasing environmental temperature, giant anteaters increased activity duration, nocturnality and diurnal selection for forests, increasing energy intake while avoiding heat gain by solar radiation. With decreasing environmental temperature, they decreased activity duration, increased diurnality and increased nocturnal selection for forests, thus gaining heat from solar radiation when active and taking shelter in milder microclimates when resting. Besides their high short-term behavioural plasticity regarding activity, giant anteaters also used forests to thermoregulate. These results provide insights into how other mammals could respond to climate change. In particular, we highlight the importance of forests as thermal shelters, offering milder temperatures than adjacent open areas during both hot and cold weather spells. Thermal shelters will become more and more indispensable to animal thermoregulation as the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events increase.
Keywords: Activity, behavioural thermoregulation, forest conservation, habitat selection, hidden Markov models, integrated step selection analysis, movement ecology, thermal shelter
College: Faculty of Science and Engineering
Start Page: 191
End Page: 209