Afrotropical Heterothermy: A Continuum of Possibilities

  • Kathrin H. Dausmann
  • Julia Nowack
  • Susanne Kobbe
  • Nomakwezi Mzilikazi


The three closely related primate species Cheirogaleus medius , Microcebus griseorufus , and Galago moholi employ a spectrum of thermoregulatory responses to environmental bottlenecks. C. medius is an obligate hibernator, M. griseorufus shows extreme flexibility in patterns of heterothermy, ranging from daily torpor to prolonged torpor and hibernation, whereas G. moholi becomes heterothermic under extremely adverse conditions only. To gain further insights into the proximate and ultimate factors that favour and constrain torpor use in small primates, we compared the characteristics of M. griseorufus, C. medius and G. moholi as well as the prevailing ambient conditions where each of the species are found. Our analyses did not reveal any fundamental differences in the physiological parameters of heterothermy between the three species that would indicate different underlying physiological mechanisms. Instead we propose that the different modes of reproduction, connected to climatic differences, are the key ultimate causes of the differences in thermoregulatory strategies between the three species. We suggest that the common ancestor of the strepsirrhine primates was a heterothermic endotherm and that the ability to express daily torpor/hibernation is closely linked to ecological and evolutionary forces that favour and prioritise activities such as reproduction.


Mouse Lemur Torpor Bout Daily Torpor Prolonged Torpor Thermoregulatory Strategy 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathrin H. Dausmann
    • 1
  • Julia Nowack
    • 1
  • Susanne Kobbe
    • 1
  • Nomakwezi Mzilikazi
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Animal Ecology and Conservation, Biocentre GrindelUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  2. 2.Centre for African Conservation Ecology, Department of ZoologyNelson Mandela Metropolitan UniversityPort ElizabethSouth Africa

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