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This Marsupial Dies After Marathon Mating. Now It's Got Bigger Worries

University of New England
the Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Queensland University of Technology
Condé Nast
My Personal Information Wired
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Matt Simon Antechinus
Clare Stawski
Andrew Baker


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Positivity     42.00%   
   Negativity   58.00%
The New York Times
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This is highly influenced by temperature: An adult antechinus’ metabolism shifts to expend less energy when it’s cold during the winter, and there isn’t much insect prey for it to hunt. In fact, in the dead of winter, antechinus can slip into a state called torpor, drastically lowering their body temperature and metabolic rates.In the lab, the researchers also found that when turning up the heat on animals that had been reared in the cold, the animals increased their activity levels, just like they would in the wild as warmer spring temperatures bring more insects to hunt.So far so good—until the researchers also looked at the metabolic rates, instead of just the activity levels, of the animals as they experienced temperature shifts. Unlike a reptile, a mammal like antechinus has to constantly maintain its own body temperature, either spending energy to cool or warm itself.This time, the researchers found that when the antechinus raised in the warm group shifted to the cold, they increased their metabolic rate only slightly. The discrepancy suggests that the babies brought up in cold conditions have more plastic phenotypes when it comes to adjusting to temperature changes.“So we hypothesize that perhaps these results reveal that antechinus that are raised in cold conditions have more flexibility in their physiology than those that are raised in warm conditions,” says physiological ecologist Clare Stawski of University of New England in Australia and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, lead author on the new paper. In other words, instead of leading to a year-round insect buffet, a warmer climate might actually create more summers in which the antechinus go hungry, because their food supply has been diminished by fire.Australia has also been withering under a fierce drought; indeed, it was that lack of moisture that supercharged this season’s bushfires.

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