Field energetics of free-living, lactating and non-lactating echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus)

J Schmid, N A Andersen, J R Speakman, S C Nicol

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We measured daily energy expenditure (DEE) and water turnover rates in lactating and non-lactating short beaked echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus) using the doubly labelled water technique during the lactation period in spring. Reproductively inactive echidnas were on average significantly heavier (median: 3354 g; range: 2929-3780 g; N=4) than lactating females (median: 2695 g; range: 2690-2715 g; N=3) during the equivalent time period. The median water flux rate of lactating echidnas (152 ml day(-1); range: 120-198 ml day(-1)) did not differ significantly from that of non-lactating females (170 ml day(-1); range: 128-227 ml day(-1)). The median DEE of echidnas that were lactating was 645 kJ day(-1) (range: 581-850 kJ day(-1)), which was not different from the median DEE of non-reproductive control females (763 kJ day(-1); range: 720-766 kJ day(-1)). Lactating females somehow compensate for the energy costs of milk production, resulting in a daily energy budget that is not different from that of non-reproductive females. At least part of their energy minimising strategy could involve the use of moderate heterothermy, allowing a greater proportion of daily energy expenditure to diverted to milk production. (C) 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)903-909
Number of pages7
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • energy expenditure
  • lactation
  • doubly labelled water
  • echidnas
  • Tachyglossus aculeatus
  • Tasmania


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