Trade-offs between activity and thermoregulation in a small carnivore, the least weasel Mustela nivalis

Karol Zub, P. A. Szafranska, M. Konarzewski, Paula Redman, John Roger Speakman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


We studied factors influencing daily energy expenditures (DEE) of male least weasels (Mustela nivalis) using the doubly labelled water technique. The relationship between ambient temperature and DEE formed a triangular pattern, characterized by invariance of the maximum DEE and an inverse relationship between minimum DEE and temperature. A simple energetic model relating the DEE of male weasels to activity time (AT) and ambient temperature predicted that, across seasons, less than 10 per cent of measurements approach the upper bound of observed DEE. Male weasels were able to maintain a relatively constant maximum energy output across varying temperatures by adjusting their AT to changes in temperature. They achieved maximum energy expenditures in winter due to high thermoregulatory costs, and in spring and summer due to high levels of physical activity. This pattern exemplifies a 'metabolic niche' of a small mammal having extremely high energy expenditures primarily driven by ambient temperature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1921-1927
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. B, Biological Sciences
Issue number1663
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2009


  • daily energy expenditure
  • ambient temperature
  • activity time
  • metabolic niche
  • weasel
  • doubly labelled water
  • doubly-labeled water
  • daily energy-expenditure
  • vole microtus-agrestis
  • small mammals
  • life-span
  • metabolic-rate
  • oxidative stress
  • CO2 production
  • body-water
  • field


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