Bioenergetics of torpor in the Microbiotherid marsupial, Monito del Monte (Dromiciops gliroides): the role of temperature and food availability
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- Nespolo, R.F., Verdugo, C., Cortés, P.A. et al. J Comp Physiol B (2010) 180: 767. doi:10.1007/s00360-010-0449-y
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Torpor is the physiologically controlled reduction of metabolic rate and body temperature experienced by small birds and mammals when facing periods of low temperature and/or food shortage. In this study, we provide a first quantitative description of torpor in the relict marsupial Dromiciops gliroides by: (1) characterizing body temperature (TB) and torpor patterns, (2) evaluating the combined effects of ambient temperature and different levels of food restriction on torpor incidence and (3) exploring the metabolic depression during torpor. D. gliroides exhibited short bouts of torpor on a daily basis, during which TB decreased close to ambient temperature. During the active phase, TB also exhibited pronounced variation (range 34–38°C). In order to evaluate the consistency of torpor, we computed the repeatability of TB. Using the whole dataset, repeatability was significant (τ = 0.28). However, when torpid individuals were excluded from the analysis, repeatability was non-significant: some individuals were more prone to experience torpor than others. Our results indicate that this species also exhibits short bouts of daily torpor, whose depth and duration depends on the joint effects of TA and food availability. At TA = 20°C, the maximum torpor incidence was found at 70–80% food reduction, while at both extremes of the food continuum (100 and 0–10% food reduction) individuals were completely active, although considerable variation in TB was recorded. At TA = 10°C, individuals developed a deep form of torpor that was independent of the amount of food provided. On average, torpid D. gliroides reduced their metabolic rate up to 92% of their active values. In general, our results suggest that TA was the most immediate determinant of torpor, followed by energy availability.