ABSTRACT Metabolism is a complex phenotype shaped by natural environmental rhythms, as well as behavioral, morphological, and physiological adaptations. Although historically studied under constant environmental conditions, continuous metabolic phenotyping through environmental transitions now offers a window into the physiological responses of organisms to changing environments. Here, we use flow-through respirometry to compare metabolic responses of the desert-adapted cactus mouse ( Peromyscus eremicus ) between diurnally variable and constant environmental conditions. We contrast metabolic responses to circadian cycles in photoperiod, temperature, and humidity, against those recorded under constant hot-and-dry and constant cold-and-wet conditions. We found significant sexual dimorphism in metabolic responses, despite no measurable difference in body weight. Males seem to be more heat tolerant and females more cold tolerant. Under circadian environmental cycling, the ratio of CO 2 produced to O 2 consumed (the respiratory quotient or respiratory exchange ratio) reached greater than one, a pattern that strongly suggests that lipogenesis is contributing to the production of energy and endogenous water in this species. This hypothesis is consistent with the results of previous dehydration experiments in this species, which documented significant weight loss in response to dehydration, without other physiological impairment. Our results are also consistent with historical descriptions of circadian torpor in this species (torpid by day, active by night), but reject the hypothesis that this pattern is driven by food restriction or negative water balance, as both resources were available to animals throughout the experiments.
SUMMARY STATEMENT Continuous metabolic phenotyping of desert-adapted cactus mice ( Peromyscus eremicus ) identifies significant metabolic differences between the sexes and circadian patterning consistent with lipogenesis and environmental entrainment.