Energy expenditure increases during the active season in the small, free-living hibernator Muscardinus avellanarius
Little is known about strategies employed by small mammals to reduce energy expenditure during the summer. To understand whether ambient conditions impact euthermic energy demands in a small free-living hibernator, we measured metabolic rate of hazel dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) in the field. Furthermore, we aimed to reveal which variables influence torpor use. Our results show that hazel dormice altered euthermic energy expenditure during summer but not as expected as a response to environmental conditions. Euthermic resting metabolic rate was lowest directly after emergence from hibernation and increased by about 95% until the end of August. A considerable part of this increase was presumably caused by the changing influence of gender and rain on energy demands during different months, variation in food quality and quantity, and reversible size changes of organs that had been atrophied during hibernation. Torpor use in hazel dormice occurred more frequently when it was colder, earlier during the day, and in lighter individuals. Torpor was used routinely in males and non-reproductive females. We show that torpor is used more frequently than previously suggested by studies that only used visual proof of torpor use by surveying nest boxes.
KeywordsHazel dormouse Seasonality Energy expenditure Free-living Torpor
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