On the modulation and maintenance of hibernation in captive dwarf lemurs.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

In nature, photoperiod signals environmental seasonality and is a strong selective "zeitgeber" that synchronizes biological rhythms. For animals facing seasonal environmental challenges and energetic bottlenecks, daily torpor and hibernation are two metabolic strategies that can save energy. In the wild, the dwarf lemurs of Madagascar are obligate hibernators, hibernating between 3 and 7 months a year. In captivity, however, dwarf lemurs generally express torpor for periods far shorter than the hibernation season in Madagascar. We investigated whether fat-tailed dwarf lemurs (Cheirogaleus medius) housed at the Duke Lemur Center (DLC) could hibernate, by subjecting 8 individuals to husbandry conditions more in accord with those in Madagascar, including alternating photoperiods, low ambient temperatures, and food restriction. All dwarf lemurs displayed daily and multiday torpor bouts, including bouts lasting ~ 11 days. Ambient temperature was the greatest predictor of torpor bout duration, and food ingestion and night length also played a role. Unlike their wild counterparts, who rarely leave their hibernacula and do not feed during hibernation, DLC dwarf lemurs sporadically moved and ate. While demonstrating that captive dwarf lemurs are physiologically capable of hibernation, we argue that facilitating their hibernation serves both husbandry and research goals: first, it enables lemurs to express the biphasic phenotypes (fattening and fat depletion) that are characteristic of their wild conspecifics; second, by "renaturalizing" dwarf lemurs in captivity, they will emerge a better model for understanding both metabolic extremes in primates generally and metabolic disorders in humans specifically.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Blanco, MB; Greene, LK; Schopler, R; Williams, CV; Lynch, D; Browning, J; Welser, K; Simmons, M; Klopfer, PH; Ehmke, EE

Published Date

  • March 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 11 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 5740 -

PubMed ID

  • 33707506

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC7952597

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2045-2322

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2045-2322

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/s41598-021-84727-3


  • eng