Altitudinal zonation in Andean birds and the impact of the ‘Pace of Life’ on avian energy metabolism

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 - 12:30 to 13:30

The tropical Andes mountains contain the highest diversity of birds on the planet:  over 1000 species (10% of Earth’s avifauna) occur along short transects from lowland Amazonia to high-elevation cloud forest.   An important factor in this diversity is striking altitude zonation, with most species confined to fairly narrow elevation ranges.   These limits could result from ‘classic’ biotic interactions (competition, predation, parasitism, etc.) or from abiotic factors, such as temperature or oxygen availability.   Along with several avian ecologists, I tested if limits to thermal tolerance, interacting with the temperature gradient across elevations, determine altitude occupancy.  We also explored whether reproductive life history and energy metabolism are related in birds, using data from the northern hemisphere and Australia, as well as Peru.


Prof. Mark Chappell

  • BA University of California, Santa Cruz (1973)
  • PhD  Stanford University (1977)
  • Postoctoral work at the University of Alaska and UCLA (with George Bartholomew, one of the pioneers of physiological ecology)
  • At the University of California, Riverside since 1980 (have done time as department chair and associate dean)

Broadly speaking I’m a physiological ecologist and evolutionary physiologist interested in energy metabolism and thermal biology.  I’ve worked on many taxa (insects, fish, reptiles, birds, mammals) and have always emphasized ecological, evolutionary and behavioral questions, as addressed in a physiological context.  Some major themes have been:

  • adaptation to altitude in deer mice, especially the evolution of hemoglobin polymorphisms
  • thermal biology, foraging behavior, and reproductive effort in Adélie penguins
  • energetics of running and limits to power output in small mammals
  • aerobic performance in the context of sexual selection (junglefowl, satin bowerbirds)

My current emphasis is on the role of thermoregulatory physiology in altitude distributions of tropical birds in Colombia and Peru

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