Effects of experiment start time and duration on measurement of standard physicological variables
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Duration and start time of respirometry experiments have significant effects on the measurement of basal values for several commonly measured physiological variables (metabolic rate, evaporative water loss and body temperature). A longer measurement duration reduced values for all variables for all start times, and this was an effect of reduced animal activity rather than random sampling. However, there was also an effect of circadian rhythm on the timing of minimal physiological values. Experiment start time had a significant effect on time taken to reach minimal values for all variables, ranging from 4:00 h ± 38 min (body temperature, start time 23:00 h) to 8:54 h ± 52 min (evaporative water loss, start time 17:00 h). It also influenced the time of day that minimal values were obtained, ranging from 22:24 h ± 40 min (carbon dioxide production, start time 15:00 h) to 06:00 h ± 57 min (oxygen consumption, start time 23:00 h), and the minimum values measured. Consequently both measurement duration and experiment start time should be considered in experimental design to account for both a handling and a circadian effect on the animal’s physiology. We suggest that experiments to measure standard physiological variables for small diurnal birds should commence between 17:00 h and 21:00 h, and measurement duration should be at least 9 h.
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