Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 175, Issue 3, pp 147–155

Hibernation in the tropics: lessons from a primate

  • Kathrin H. Dausmann
  • Julian Glos
  • Jörg U. Ganzhorn
  • Gerhard Heldmaier
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00360-004-0470-0

Cite this article as:
Dausmann, K.H., Glos, J., Ganzhorn, J.U. et al. J Comp Physiol B (2005) 175: 147. doi:10.1007/s00360-004-0470-0


The Malagasy primate Cheirogaleus medius hibernates in tree holes for 7 months, although ambient temperatures during hibernation rise above 30°C in their natural environment. In a field study we show that during hibernation the body temperature of most lemurs fluctuates between about 10°C and 30°C, closely tracking the diurnal fluctuations of ambient temperature passively. These lemurs do not interrupt hibernation by spontaneous arousals, previously thought to be obligatory for all mammalian hibernators. However, some lemurs hibernate in large trees, which provide better thermal insulation. Their body temperature fluctuates only little around 25°C, but they show regular arousals, as known from temperate and arctic hibernators. The results from this study demonstrate that maximum body temperature is a key factor necessitating the occurrence of arousals. Furthermore, we show that hibernation is not necessarily coupled to low body temperature and, therefore, low body temperature should no longer be included in the definition of hibernation.


Hibernation Tropics Body temperature Periodic arousals Cheirogaleus medius 



Ambient temperature


Body temperature


Tree hole temperature

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathrin H. Dausmann
    • 1
  • Julian Glos
    • 2
  • Jörg U. Ganzhorn
    • 3
  • Gerhard Heldmaier
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Animal Physiology, Institute of BiologyPhilipps-UniversityMarburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical BiologyJulius-Maximilians-UniversityWürzburgGermany
  3. 3.Department of Animal Ecology and ConservationUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany

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