We studied house mice (Mus domesticus) that had been artificially selected for high activity to test the hypothesis that a high capacity for energy assimilation in cold-exposed endotherms could evolve as a correlated response to selection for increased locomotor activity. After 10 generations of selection for increased voluntary wheel-running, mice from four selected lines ran 75 % more wheel revolutions per day than did mice from four random-bred, control lines. The maximum cold-induced rates of food consumption (C(max); mean 10.6 g day(−1)) and energy assimilation (A(max); mean 141 kJ day(−1)) were not significantly higher in the selected than in the control mice. However, in cold-exposure trials, mice from the selected lines maintained body mass better than did mice from the control lines. C(max) and A(max) were positively correlated with the amount of wheel-running activity measured before cold-exposure and also with the rates of food consumption measured when the mice had access to running wheels. In females at least, the correlation was significant not only among individuals but also among adjusted means of the replicate lines, which suggests the presence of a positive genetic correlation between the traits. Thus, despite the lack of a significant difference between the selected and control lines in maximum rate of food consumption, the remaining results conform to the hypothesis that a selection for increased locomotor activity could be a factor behind the evolution of the ability to sustain activity and maintain energy balance during prolonged cold-exposure, as occurred during the evolution of mammalian and avian endothermy.

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