Ana Breit, Amanda Klemmer, Melissa Ladenheim
Climate change is one of the biggest factors currently affecting the health and energetics of animals. Species evolve to operate optimally under certain environmental conditions and changes in those conditions can be detrimental to the species. Previous studies have shown increased evaporative cooling in flying squirrels at higher temperatures but not much is known about their ability to use other avenues of heat loss such as thermal windows; areas of the body that exchange heat with the environment via convection. For example, the patagium of southern flying squirrels may also serve as a thermal window to aid in heat dissipation. To determine the heat loss mechanisms that southern flying squirrels use to cope high environmental temperatures, I caught wild southern flying squirrels at the University of Maine’s Demeritt Forest in Old Town, Maine, USA, exposed individuals to ambient temperatures near or above the upper limits of their thermoneutral zone, and photographed them using a FLIR thermal camera. Thermal imaging was used to identify areas of body areas used to dissipate heat. Subcutaneous body temperatures were simultaneously logged using a thermally-sensitive Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT tag). Contrary to my predictions, there was little to no evidence of the patagium being a thermal window as observed in the thermal images. Other body regions such as the tail and paws provided evidence of thermal conductance with physical behaviors such as self-urination and sprawling being observed as well. Further studies should aim at how the vasculature in the observed areas works to dissipate heat. Thermometric measurements and a larger sample size may aid in supporting my initial hypothesis.
Flynn, Colin, "Using Thermography to Determine Mechanisms of Heat Loss in the Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys Volans)" (2022). Honors College. 736.