Daily torpor in the gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) in Madagascar: energetic consequences and biological significance
Patterns and energetic consequences of spontaneous daily torpor were measured in the gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) under natural conditions of ambient temperature and photoperiod in a dry deciduous forest in western Madagascar. Over a period of two consecutive dry seasons, oxygen consumption (VO2) and body temperature (Tb) were measured on ten individuals kept in outdoor enclosures. In all animals, spontaneous daily torpor occurred on a daily basis with torpor bouts lasting from 3.6 to 17.6 h, with a mean torpor bout duration of 9.3 h. On average, body temperatures in torpor were 17.3±4.9°C with a recorded minimum value of 7.8°C. Torpor was not restricted to the mouse lemurs’ diurnal resting phase: entries occurred throughout the night and arousals mainly around midday, coinciding with the daily ambient temperature maximum. Arousal from torpor was a two-phase process with a first passive, exogenous heating where the Tb of animals increased from the torpor Tb minimum to a mean value of 27.1°C before the second, endogenous heat production commenced to further raise Tb to normothermic values. Metabolic rate during torpor (28.6±13.2 ml O2 h–1) was significantly reduced by about 76% compared to resting metabolic rate (132.6±50.5 ml O2 h–1). On average, for all M. murinus individuals measured, hypometabolism during daily torpor reduced daily energy expenditure by about 38%. In conclusion, all these energy-conserving mechanisms of the nocturnal mouse lemurs, with passive exogenous heating during arousal from torpor, low minimum torpor Tbs, and extended torpor bouts into the activity phase, comprise an important and highly adapted mechanism to minimize energetic costs in response to unfavorable environmental conditions and may play a crucial role for individual fitness.
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