Physiological responses of the common ringtail possum to heat wave exposure

James M. Turner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePresentation


As the world's climate warms, heat waves are predicted to increase in intensity, frequency and duration. Although relatively brief, they can bear long-lasting ecological consequences by having both sub-lethal (e.g., reduced body condition) and lethal effects. As such, heat waves will increasingly pose a globally significant problem for animal species. Mammals can manage excess heat by allowing body temperature to increase with high ambient temperature to save water, but only up to a point—after which, they must actively cool themselves using evaporative water loss, thereby increasing the risk of dehydration. Surpassing such a threshold for too long can result in mortality. Therefore, the efficacy of cooling strategies is likely to be vital for wildlife species survival, particularly those with limited opportunities for behavioural thermoregulation. To better understand the direct effects of high ambient temperature on marsupial physiology, I measured the body temperature, water loss and metabolic rate of wild-caught common ringtail possums Pseudocheirus peregrinus in response to a simulated heat wave. Here, I present preliminary data on the possum’s use of controlled hyperthermia and changes in thermal conductance to reduce water loss and cope with extreme ambient temperature. By quantifying the effect of environmental heat on animal physiology, this project aims to provide information crucial for predicting how and where wildlife populations will persist in a warming world.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes
EventThe Australian Mammal Society Conference Sydney 2019 - University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 7 Jul 201911 Jul 2019


ConferenceThe Australian Mammal Society Conference Sydney 2019
Abbreviated title65th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian Mammal Society
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Physiological responses of the common ringtail possum to heat wave exposure'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this