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


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.


Body temperature Metabolic rate Primate Madagascar Cheirogaleus medius 



Basal metabolic rate


Daily resting energy expenditure


Metabolic rate


Field resting metabolic rate


Respiratory quotient


Ambient temperature


Body temperature


Tree hole temperature


Rate of oxygen consumption



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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