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Body temperature changes during simulated bacterial infection in a songbird: fever at night and hypothermia during the day

  • Sandra Sköld Chiriac
  • Andreas Nord
  • Michael Tobler
  • Jan-Åke Nilsson
  • Dennis Hasselquist
Publishing year: 2015
Language: English
Pages: 2961-2969
Publication/Series: Journal of Experimental Biology
Volume: 218
Issue: 18
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: The Company of Biologists Ltd

Abstract english

Although fever (a closely regulated increase in body temperature in response to infection) typically is beneficial, it is energetically costly and may induce detrimentally high body temperatures. This can increase the susceptibility to energetic bottlenecks and risks of overheating in some organisms. Accordingly, it could be particularly interesting to study fever in small birds, which have comparatively high metabolic rates and high, variable body temperatures. We therefore investigated two aspects of fever and other sickness behaviours (circadian variation, dose dependence) in a small songbird, the zebra finch. We injected lipopolysaccharide (LPS) at the beginning of either the day or the night, and subsequently monitored body temperature, body mass change and food intake for the duration of the response. We found pronounced circadian variation in the body temperature response to LPS injection, manifested by (dose-dependent) hypothermia during the day but fever at night. This resulted in body temperature during the peak response being relatively similar during the day and night. Day-to-night differences might be explained in the context of circadian variation in body temperature: songbirds have a high daytime body temperature that is augmented by substantial heat production peaks during activity. This might require a trade-off between the benefit of fever and the risk of overheating. In contrast, at night, when body temperature is typically lower and less variable, fever can be used to mitigate infection. We suggest that the change in body temperature during infection in small songbirds is context dependent and regulated to promote survival according to individual demands at the time of infection.


  • Evolutionary Biology
  • LPS
  • fever
  • ecophysiology
  • acute-phase response
  • heterothermy


  • Immunoecology
  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 1477-9145
Andreas Nord at NHM London
E-mail: andreas [dot] nord [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Evolutionary ecology

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