Hibernation in Free-Ranging African Woodland Dormice, Graphiurus murinus

  • Nomakwezi Mzilikazi
  • Zimkitha Madikiza
  • Rebecca Oelkrug
  • Roderick M. Baxter


Although daily torpor is common in African animals, hibernation seems to be uncommon. In this study we investigated the use of hibernation in free-ranging African woodland dormice, Graphiurus murinus, during winter. We also investigated if this species made any seasonal adjustments to basal metabolic rates. G. murinus were heterothermic on a 100% of the measurement days. The minimum body temperature recorded was 1.5°C and the longest torpor bout without arousal was 8 days. There were no significant differences in basal metabolic rates between seasons and the measured values were similar to those previously reported in laboratory studies. We conclude that hibernation is the main adjustment that G. murinus utilise to deal with challenging winter conditions.


Basal Metabolic Rate Torpor Bout Passive Heating Bout Length Daily Torpor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was supported by a Thuthuka grant from the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa. Any opinions, findings and conclusions expressed in this material are those of the authors and therefore the NRF does not accept any liability in regard thereto. Mr Brad Fike graciously hosted us and assisted with logistics at the Great Fish River Reserve (GFRR). The Eastern Cape Parks Board granted permission to work at GFRR.


  1. Baxter RM (1996) Evidence for spontaneous torpor in Crocidura flavescens. Acta Theriol 41:327–330Google Scholar
  2. Cory Toussaint D, McKechnie AE, Van der Merwe M (2010) Heterothermy in free-ranging male Egyptian free-tailed bats (Tadarida aegyptiaca) in a subtropical climate. Mamm Biol 75:466–470CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Geiser F (2001) Hibernation: endotherms. In: Encyclopedia of life sciences. Macmillan Publishers, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Geiser F, Ruf T (1995) Hibernation versus daily torpor in mammals and birds: physiological variables and classification of torpor patterns. Phys Zoo 68:935–966Google Scholar
  5. Goldman BD, Darrow JM, Duncan MJ, Yogev L (1986) Photoperiod, reproductive hormones, and winter torpor in three hamster species. In: Heller HC, Musacchia XJ, Wang LCH (eds) Living in the cold: physiological and biochemical adaptations. Elsevier, New York, pp 341–351Google Scholar
  6. Hallam SL, Mzilikazi N (2011) Heterothermy in the southern African hedgehog, Atelerix frontalis. J Comp Physiol B 181:437–445PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Heldmaier G (1989) Seasonal acclimatization of energy requirements in mammals: functional significance of body weight control, hypothermia, torpor and hibernation. In: Wieser W, Gnaiger E (eds) Energy transformations in cells and organisms. Georg Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart, pp 130–139Google Scholar
  8. Jackson C, Setsaas T, Robertson M, Scantlebury M, Bennett N (2009) Insights into torpor and behavioural thermoreguation of the endangered Juliana’s golden mole. J Zool 278:299–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kryštifek B, Haberl W, Baxter RM, Zima J (2004) Morphology and karyology of two populations of the woodland dormouse, Graphiurus murinus in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Folia Zool 53:339–350Google Scholar
  10. Lovegrove BG (2005) Seasonal thermoregulatory responses in mammals. J Comp Physiol B 175:231–247PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lovegrove BG, Génin F (2008) Torpor and hibernation in a basal placental mammal, the lesser hedgehog tenrec, Echinops telfairi. J Comp Physiol B 178:691–698PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lovegrove BG, Lawes MJ, Roxburgh L (1999) Confirmation of pleisiomorphic daily torpor in mammals: the round-eared elephant shrew Maroscelides proboscideus (Macroscelidea). J Comp Physiol B 169:453–460PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lovegrove BG, Raman J (1998) Torpor patterns in the pouched mouse (Saccostomus camprestris; Rodentia): a model animal for unpredictable environments. J Comp Physiol B 168:303–312PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Madikiza ZKJ (2010) Population Biology and aspects of socio-spatial organisation of the woodland dormouse, Graphiurus murinus (Desmaret 1822) in the Great Fish River Reserve, South Africa. MSc dissertation, University of Fort HareGoogle Scholar
  15. Madikiza ZKJ, Bertolino S, Baxter RM, Do Linh San E (2010) Seasonal, sexual and age related variations in the live trapping success of woodland dormice, Graphiurus murinus. Zool Stud 49:797–805Google Scholar
  16. McKechnie AE, Mzilikazi N (2011) Heterothermy in Afrotropical mammals and birds: a review. Integr Comp Biol. doi: 10.1093/icb/icr035:1-15 Google Scholar
  17. Mzilikazi N, Lovegrove BG, Ribble DO (2002) Exogenous passive heating during torportorpor arousal in free-ranging rock elephant shrews, Elephantulus myurus. Oecologia 133:307–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Nowack J, Mzilikazi N, Dausmann K (2010) Torpor on demand: heterothermy in the non-lemur primate Galago moholi. PLoS One 5:e10797PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ridgard BW, Perrin MR (1999) Thermoregulation and patterns of torpor in the spectacled dormouse Graphiurus ocularis (Smith 1829):Gliridae. Trop Zool 12:253–266Google Scholar
  20. Scantlebury M, Lovegrove BG, Jackson C, Bennett N, Lutermann H (2008) Hibernation and non-shivering thermogenesis in the Hottentot golden mole (Amblysomus hottentotus longiceps). J Comp Physiol B 178:887–897PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Skinner J, Chimimba C (2005) The mammals of the southern African subregion, 3rd edn. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  22. Stearns SC (1992) The evolution of life histories. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  23. Webb PI, Skinner JD (1996) Summer torpor in African woodland dormice Graphiurus murinus (Myoxidae: Graphiurinae). J Comp Physiol B 166:325–330PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Whittington-Jones CA, Brown CR (1999) Thermoregulatory capabilities of the woodland dormouse, Graphiurus murinus. S Afr J Zool 34:34–38Google Scholar
  25. Williams JB, Tieleman BI (2002) Ecological and evolutionary physiology of desert birds: a progress report. Intergr Comp Biol 42:68–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wilz M, Heldmaier G (2000) Comparison of hibernation, estivation and daily torpor in the edible dormouse, Glis glis. J Comp Physiol B 170:511–521PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nomakwezi Mzilikazi
    • 1
  • Zimkitha Madikiza
    • 2
  • Rebecca Oelkrug
    • 3
  • Roderick M. Baxter
    • 4
  1. 1.Centre for African Conservation Ecology, Department of ZoologyNelson Mandela Metropolitan UniversityPort ElizabethSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Zoology and EntomologyUniversity of Fort HareAliceSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of Animal PhysiologyPhillips Universitaet MarburgMarburgGermany
  4. 4.Department of Geology and Resource Management, School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of VendaThohoyandouSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations