Body Mass and Tail Girth Predict Hibernation Expression in Captive Dwarf Lemurs.
AbstractHibernation, a metabolic strategy, allows individuals to reduce energetic demands in times of energetic deficits. Hibernation is pervasive in nature, occurring in all major mammalian lineages and geographical regions; however, its expression is variable across species, populations, and individuals, suggesting that trade-offs are at play. Whereas hibernation reduces energy expenditure, energetically expensive arousals may impose physiological burdens. The torpor optimization hypothesis posits that hibernation should be expressed according to energy availability. The greater the energy surplus, the lower the hibernation output. The thrifty female hypothesis, a variation of the torpor optimization hypothesis, states that females should conserve more energy because of their more substantial reproductive costs. Contrarily, if hibernation's benefits offset its costs, hibernation may be maximized rather than optimized (e.g., hibernators with greater fat reserves could afford to hibernate longer). We assessed torpor expression in captive dwarf lemurs, primates that are obligate, seasonal, and tropical hibernators. Across 4.5 mo in winter, we subjected eight individuals at the Duke Lemur Center to conditions conducive to hibernation, recorded estimates of skin temperature hourly (a proxy for torpor), and determined body mass and tail fat reserves bimonthly. Across and between consecutive weigh-ins, heavier dwarf lemurs spent less time in torpor and lost more body mass. At equivalent body mass, females spent more time torpid and better conserved energy than did males. Although preliminary, our results support the torpor optimization and thrifty female hypotheses, suggesting that individuals optimize rather than maximize torpor according to body mass. These patterns are consistent with hibernation phenology in Madagascar, where dwarf lemurs hibernate longer in more seasonal habitats.
Blanco, MB; Greene, LK; Klopfer, PH; Lynch, D; Browning, J; Ehmke, EE; Yoder, AD
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