Basal metabolism in tropical birds: Latitude, altitude, and the 'pace of life'
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.12348
Life history varies across latitudes, with the 'pace of life' being 'slower' in tropical regions. Because life history is coupled to energy metabolism via allocation tradeoffs and links between performance capacity and energy use, low metabolic intensity is expected in tropical animals. Low metabolism has been reported for lowland tropical birds, but it is unclear if this is due to 'slow' life history or to a warm, stable environment. We measured basal metabolic rates (BMR) of 253 bird species across a 2·6 km altitude gradient in Peru. We predicted higher BMR at high altitude due to lower temperatures leading to elevated thermoregulatory costs. We also tested for BMR differences between widely separated tropical regions (Peru and Panama), and between tropical- and temperate-breeding birds. We found no effect of altitude on BMR in Peruvian species and no difference in BMR between Peruvian and Panamanian birds, suggesting that BMR in Neotropical birds is consistent and independent of environmental temperature. In a data set encompassing more than 500 species, tropical birds had significantly lower BMR than temperate-breeding birds. In contrast to several recent analyses, we found higher BMR in passerine birds than in non-passerines, independent of breeding latitude. Breeding latitude affects BMR, but diversity in avian life history within and between temperate and tropical regions may explain some of the residual variation in BMR after accounting for body mass and breeding latitude. Future studies of links between life history, metabolism and environmental factors might benefit from examining these variables within individual species as well as across broad geographic contrasts.