Associations between over-winter survival and resting metabolic rate in juvenile North American red squirrels

Meghan L. Larivee, Stan Boutin, John Roger Speakman, Andrew G. McAdam, Murray M. Humphries

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92 Citations (Scopus)


P>1. Resting metabolic rate (RMR) varies considerably among and within species. Two central questions in physiological ecology are whether values of RMR are repeatable and whether an association exists between RMR and fitness.

2. First, we investigated the repeatability of RMR in food hoarding, juvenile, North American red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus Erxleben). Second, we explored links between RMR and survival. A low RMR may enhance survival if it reduces winter expenditure costs and/or allows more energy to be allocated towards autumn food hoarding. Alternately, a high RMR may enhance survival if it enables juveniles to hoard more food by increasing the throughput of energy available for investment in hoarding activities.

3. Resting metabolic rate adjusted for body mass, was repeatable in both males and females (r = 0 center dot 77) over a short-term (mean 24 center dot 3 days) but only among females (r = 0 center dot 72) over a long-term interval (mean 192 days).

4. Heavier juveniles and those with a lower RMR relative to their body mass were more likely to survive over-winter. Multiple selection models found significant selection for a decreased RMR (beta' = -0 center dot 56 +/- 0 center dot 16) and increased mass (beta' = 0 center dot 69 +/- 0 center dot 17). Survivors also tended to have more food stored within their hoard.

5. A low RMR relative to body mass and large body mass may have allowed individuals to minimize the expenditure costs related to a larger body mass, while maximizing thermal inertia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-607
Number of pages11
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number3
Early online date17 Feb 2010
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010


  • resting metabolic rate
  • individual
  • survival
  • red squirrel
  • food
  • juvenile
  • doubly-labeled water
  • daily energy-expenditure
  • aerobic capacity model
  • beldings ground squirrelQUIRRELS
  • long-term repeatability
  • life-history traits
  • individual variation
  • natural-selection
  • small mammals
  • deer mice


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