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Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 179, Issue 3, pp 345–357 | Cite as

Energetics of tropical hibernation

  • K. H. Dausmann
  • J. Glos
  • G. Heldmaier
Original Paper

Abstract

In this field study, the energetic properties of tropical hibernation were investigated by measuring oxygen consumption and body temperature of the Malagasy primate Cheirogaleus medius in their natural hibernacula. These lemurs use tree holes with extremely varying insulation capacities as hibernacula. In poorly insulated tree holes, tree hole temperature and body temperature fluctuated strongly each day (between 12.8 and 34.4°C). The metabolic rate under these conditions also showed large daily fluctuations between about 29.0 ml O2/h and 97.9 ml O2/h in parallel with changes in body temperature. In well insulated tree holes in very large trees on the other hand, tree hole temperature and body temperature remained relatively constant at about 25°C. Lemurs hibernating in these tree holes showed a more constant metabolic rate at an intermediate level, but hibernation was interrupted by repeated arousals with peak metabolic rates up to 350 ml O2/h. The occurrence of these spontaneous arousals proved that the ability for thermoregulation persists during hibernation. Arousals were energetically costly, but much less so than in temperate and arctic hibernators. Despite the decisive influence of tree hole properties on the pattern of body temperature and metabolic rate during hibernation, the choice of the hibernaculum does not seem to be of energetic importance. The overall energetic savings by tropical hibernation amounted to about 70% as compared to the active season (31.5 vs. 114.3 kJ/d). Therefore, tropical hibernation in C. medius is an effective, well-regulated adaptive response to survive unfavourable seasons.

Keywords

Body temperature Metabolic rate Primate Madagascar Cheirogaleus medius 

Abbreviations

BMR

Basal metabolic rate

DREE

Daily resting energy expenditure

MR

Metabolic rate

fRMR

Field resting metabolic rate

RQ

Respiratory quotient

Ta

Ambient temperature

Tb

Body temperature

Th

Tree hole temperature

VO2

Rate of oxygen consumption

Notes

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the “Commission Tripartite” of the Malagasy Government, the “Laboratoire de Primatologie et des Vertébrés de l’Université d’Antananarivo”, the “Parc Botanique et Zoologique de Tsimbazaza”, the “Ministère pour la Production Animale” and the “Département des Eaux et Forêts” for permits to work in Madagascar. We also thank the “Centre de Formation Professionnelle Forestière de Morondava” for their hospitality and permission to work on their concession. B. Rakotosamimanana, R. Rasoloarison, L. Razafimanantsoa, J. Fietz and J. Schmid supported the field project in numerous ways. We thank the German Primate Centre (DPZ) and P. Kappeler for the opportunity to work at the field station. Financial aid from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft is gratefully acknowledged. All experiments comply with the current laws of the country where they were performed.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Animal PhysiologyPhilipps-UniversityMarburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Animal Ecology and ConservationUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  3. 3.Department of Animal Ecology and ConservationBiocenter GrindelHamburgGermany

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