The effect of temperature on thermoregulation, metabolism, evaporative water loss and thermal conductance was studied in Gerbillus pusillus. Its resting body temperature (TB) was 34·6°C, approximately 5°C higher than the mean ambient temperature (TA) encountered in its burrow. As TA increased above 34°C, its ability to lose heat to the environment decreased. It overcame this problem by tolerating increases in TB to a non-lethal maximum of 41°C, whilst also eliminating increasing quantities of obligate heat by pulmocutaneous evaporation and conduction.
Metabolic rate was 41% lower than that predicted from Kleiber's (1975) allometric equation. This confers a considerable saving in energy in an environment where food is often scarce, whilst simultaneously reducing heat production and the degree of gaseous exchange in the already oxygen-poor and carbon dioxide-rich environment encountered in the plugged burrows of its natural milieu.
Gerbillus pusillus, therefore, does not maintain strict homeothermy and utilizes a labile TB and reduced metabolic rate as an adaptive mechanism for survival in the arid zones of tropical Africa.