Dr. Zenon Czenze


Dr. Zenon Czenze

Department of Zoology and Entomology
University of Pretoria
Pretoria, 0002
South Africa


I am a broadly trained behavioural ecophysiologist, specializing in whole-organism thermal physiology using small mammals and birds. I obtained my B.Sc. (Hon) from Saint Mary’s University, my Master’s from the University of Winnipeg, and my Ph.D. from the University of Auckland. During my academic career I’ve worked with animals from Northern Canada to Southern Africa in temperatures from -40°C to >40°C. Over the past 10 years I’ve had the privilege of working with some inspiring mentors, most recently, Andrew Mckechnie. I met Andrew during my master’s at a conference in Costa Rica where he told me about the work the group had been doing on heat tolerance in birds. During my PhD, we met again at a conference in Las Vegas and discussed the possibility of me joining the group. Until this point, I had used bats as a study species, focusing on their adaptations to cold temperatures. To me, the idea of examining heat tolerance was the natural progression of my research interests, and the rest is history.

Research interests


My primary research interest is the cross-disciplinary application of behavioural, ecological, and physiological data to understand the inter- and intra-specific variation in the energy budgets of small endotherms. Broadly, I am interested in how aspects of a species natural history and ecology (i.e., roost preferences, drinking behaviour, and diet) influences thermoregulation and quantifying this using physiology. My current research specialises in using open-flow respirometry to record the physiological responses of birds and bats to high temperatures. 

Research project

Hot Bats Research Project

Collaborator: Prof. Andrew McKechnie

Key Publications

PDF copies are available on request...

Czenze, Z.J., Kemp, R., van Jaarsveld, B., Freeman, M.T., Smit, B., Wolf, B.O. and McKechnie, A.E. In press. Regularly drinking desert birds have greater evaporative cooling capacity and higher heat tolerance limits than non-drinking species. Functional Ecology.

Czenze, Z.J., Naidoo, S., Kotze, A. and McKechnie, A.E. (2020). Bat thermoregulation in the heat: Limits to evaporative cooling capacity in three southern African bats.​ Journal of Thermal Biology 89: 102542.

Lane, J.E., Czenze, Z.J., Charmantier, A., Findlay-Robinson, R.F., Bayne, E. and Kruuk L.E.B. (2019). Phenotypic plasticity maintains adaptation across an elevation gradient in a wild hibernator. American Naturalist 194.

Lubbe, N., Czenze Z.J., Noakes, M.J. and McKechnie, A.E. (2018). The energetic significance of communal roosting and insulated roost nests in a small arid-zone bird. Ostrich 89: 347-354. 

Woods, C.P., Czenze, Z.J. and Brigham, R.M. (2018). Understanding the avian “hibernation” enigma: thermoregulatory patterns and roost choice of the common poorwill (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii). Oecologia 1-7.

Hoole, C., Czenze, Z.J., Bennett, N.C. and McKechnie, A.E. (2018). Thermal physiology of three sympatric small mammals from southern Africa. Journal of Zoology (DOI) - 10.1111/jzo.12613.

Czenze, Z.J., Tucker, J.L., Clare, E.L., Littlefair, J.E., Hemprich-Bennett, D., De Oliveira, H.F.M., Brigham, R.M., Hickey, A.J.R. and Parsons, S. (2018). Spatio-temporal and demographic variation in the diet of New Zealand lesser short-tailed bats (Mystacina tuberculata). Ecology and Evolution 8:7599-7610.

Czenze, Z.J. and Thurley, T. (2018) Weather and demographics affect Dactylanthus flower visitation by New Zealand lesser short-tailed bats. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 42:1-5.

Czenze, Z.J., Jonasson, K.A. and Willis, C.K.R. (2017) Frisky males, thrifty females: winter energetics of hibernating bats from a cold climate. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 90:502-511.


Czenze, Z.J., Brigham, R.M., Hickey, A.J. and Parsons, S. (2017). Winter climate affects torpor patterns and roost choice in New Zealand lesser short-tailed bats. Journal of Zoology 303:236-243.

Czenze, Z.J., Brigham, R.M., Hickey, A.J. and Parsons, S. (2017). Stressful summers? Torpor expression differs between high and low latitude populations of bats. Journal of Mammalogy 98:1249-1255.

Czenze, Z.J. and Dunbar M.B. (2017). Hot bats go cold: heterothermy in neotropical bats. Canadian Journal of Zoology 95:909-912.

Czenze, Z.J., Brigham, R.M., Hickey, A.J. and Parsons, S. (2017). Cold and alone? Roost choice and season affect torpor patterns in lesser short-tailed bats. Oecologia 183:1-8.

Webber, Q.M.R., Czenze, Z.J. and Willis, C.K.R. (2015). Host demographic predicts ectoparasite dynamics for a colonial host during pre-hibernation mating. Parasitology 142:1260-1269.

Czenze, Z.J. and Willis, C.K.R. (2015). Warming up and shipping out: cues for arousal and emergence in hibernating little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus). Journal of Comparative Physiology B 185:575-586. 

Czenze, Z.J., Park, A.D. and Willis, C.K.R. (2013). Staying cold through dinner: Cold climate bats re-warm with conspecifics but not sunset during hibernation. Journal of Comparative Physiology B 183:859-66.

Czenze, Z.J. and Broders, H.G. (2011). Ectoparasite community structure of two bats Myotis lucifugus and M. septentrionalis) from the Maritimes of Canada. Journal of Parasitology Research 2011:341535.

Czenze, Z.J., Wong, S.N.P. and Willis, C.K.R. (2011). Observations of eastern red bats (Lasiurus borealis) 160 km off the coast of Nova Scotia. Bat Research News 52:28-30.


Dr. Matthew Noakes


Matthew J. Noakes

Department of Zoology and Entomology

University of Pretoria

Pretoria, 0002

South Africa


I began my academic career by studying a B.Sc. Zoology at the University of Pretoria, graduating in 2011. I started my postgraduate studies the following year with a B.Sc. (Hons) Zoology supervised by Prof. Andrew McKechnie, and a research project investigating heterothermy in African Green Pigeons. I officially joined the Hot Birds team in 2013 when I began an M.Sc. Zoology, quantifying variation in patterns of seasonal acclimatisation among populations of a widespread southern African passerine, the White-browed Sparrow-weaver. This research involved summer and winter fieldwork at sites across South Africa along a climatic gradient. My Ph.D. work followed on from my M.Sc. research by investigating flexibility in the thermoregulatory responses of southern African passerines, as well as the sources and mechanisms responsible for intraspecific physiological variation in these birds. I found considerable flexibility in the thermoregulatory responses of sparrow-weavers, and particularly that greater heat tolerance in desert populations arises from phenotypic flexibility rather than “hard-wired” genetic differences. This finding has far-reaching implications for predicting how climate change will affect birds. 


During my PhD, I served as lab manager for Prof, McKechnie, as well as the student rep of the Zoological Society of Southern Africa. I was also a Queen Elizabeth II Scholar in 2018, investigating interspecific variation in the heat tolerance of North American bats under the supervision of Prof Mark Brigham at the University of Regina, Canada.

Research interests

My research interests focus on the ecological and evolutionary physiology of birds and mammals. My current projects investigate phenotypic flexibility of avian thermal physiology, global variation in avian metabolic rate and body temperature, and torpor use in songbirds. I have experience in a range of research techniques, including open flow-through respirometry, temperature-sensitive transponder tags, telemetry, stable isotope analyses, behavioural observations and body composition measurements. Moving forward, I intend to stay in the field of eco-physiology, particularly investigating adaptive physiological responses, pronounced heterothermic responses, as well as the evolution of endothermy and thermoregulatory patterns.


Click on a reference to directly access a pdf copy...

Noakes, M.J. and McKechnie, A.E. (2020). Phenotypic flexibility of metabolic rate and evaporative water loss does not vary across a climatic gradient in an Afrotropical passerine bird. Journal of  Experimental Biology 223: jeb220137.

Noakes, M.J., Karasov, W.H. and McKechnie, A.E. (2020). Seasonal variation in body composition in an Afrotropical passerine bird: increases in pectoral muscle mass are, unexpectedly, associated with lower thermogenic capacity. Journal of Comparative Physiology B 190: 371-380.

Noakes, M.J. and McKechnie, A.E. (2020). Seasonal metabolic acclimatization varies in direction and magnitude among years in two arid-zone passerine. Physiological Biochemical Zoology 93: 140-152.

Noakes, M.J. and McKechnie, A.E. (2019). Reaction norms for heat tolerance and evaporative cooling capacity do not vary across a climatic gradient in a passerine bird. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A 236: 110522.

van Dyk, M., Noakes, M.J. and McKechnie, A.E. (2019). Interactions between humidity and evaporative heat dissipation in a passerine bird. Journal of Comparative Physiology B doi: 10.1007/s00360-019-01210-2.

Lubbe, N., Czenze Z.J., Noakes, M.J. and McKechnie, A.E. (2018). The energetic significance of communal roosting and insulated roost nests in a small arid-zone passerine. Ostrich 89: 347-354.


Kemp, R., Noakes, M.J. and McKechnie. A.E. (2017). Thermoregulation in free‐ranging ground woodpeckers (Geocolaptes olivaceus): no evidence of torpor. Journal of Avian Biology 48: 1287-1294.


Noakes, M.J., Wolf, B.O. and McKechnie, A.E. (2017). Seasonal metabolic acclimatization varies in direction and magnitude among populations of an Afrotropical passerine bird. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 90: 178-189.

Noakes, M.J., Wolf, B.O. and McKechnie, A.E. (2016). Seasonal and geographical variation in heat tolerance and evaporative cooling capacity in a passerine bird. Journal of Experimental Biology 219: 859-869.

McKechnie, A.E., Smit, B., Whitfield, M.C., Noakes, M.J., Talbot, W.A., Garcia, M., Gerson, A.R. and Wolf, B.O. (2016). Avian thermoregulation in the heat: evaporative cooling capacity in an archetypal desert specialist, Burchell's sandgrouse (Pterocles burchelli). Journal of Experimental Biology 219: 2137-2144.

McKechnie, A.E., Noakes, M.J. and Smit, B. (2015). Global patterns of seasonal acclimatization in avian resting metabolic rates. Journal of Ornithology 156: 367 376.

Noakes, M.J., Smit, B., Wolf, B.O. and McKechnie, A.E. (2013). Thermoregulation in African Green Pigeons (Treron calvus) and a re-analysis of insular effects on basal metabolic rate and heterothermy in columbid birds. Journal of Comparative Physiology B 183: 969-982.



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