Evaluation of two methods for peripheral body temperature measurement

Submitted by Johan on 22 January 2016.

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Body temperature is a key physiological property of any animals, and its measurement is thus a valuable tool in ecological and physiological studies. In birds, variation in body temperaturer has been related to a range of parameters including (but not limited to) an individuals'  circadian cycle, thermal biology, metabolic rate, pathology and affective state.

However, the widespread use of body temperature measurement in field ornithology is constrained by methods that are either invasive or require frequent recapture of birds. Alternative methods based on non-contact measurement of peripheral body temperature are available, but at present there is a lack of a proper comparison of their particular strengths and weaknesses.

Great tit with backmounted radio transmitter

Nord and colleagues compared body temperature data collected from great tits (Parus major L.) using two of these methods - subcutaneously implanted PIT tags and supracutaneously attached temperature-sensivite radio transmitters - to evaluate how each method performed in assessing ecologically relevant questions over a range of environmental conditions. Authors discuss their findings in the context of applicability for field studies on birds to conclude that both methods have particular features making them suitable for non-contact body temperature measurement in unrestrained birds. However, Nord et al. caution against using methods interchangeably without proper validation, and advise that the final choice of method is best based on a combination of the preferred amount of temporal and spatial resolution, expected body temperature range and behavior of the study species. When proper consideration is given to these qualities, both methods allow precise measurement of peripheral body temperature over  range of natural systems and conditions in small, unrestrained, birds.

Feeder with PIT tag reader attached


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