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Hibernation in a tropical primate

Even in the wound-down hibernating state, this lemur can warm up without waking up.


The Madagascan fat-tailed dwarf lemur, Cheirogaleus medius, hibernates in tree holes for seven months of the year, even though winter temperatures rise to over 30 °C. Here we show that this tropical primate relies on a flexible thermal response that depends on the properties of its tree hole: if the hole is poorly insulated, body temperature fluctuates widely, passively following the ambient temperature; if well insulated, body temperature stays fairly constant and the animal undergoes regular spells of arousal. Our findings indicate that arousals are determined by maximum body temperatures and that hypometabolism in hibernating animals is not necessarily coupled to a low body temperature.

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Figure 1: Body temperature of Cheirogaleus medius during the hibernation period.

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Correspondence to Kathrin H. Dausmann.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Methods

This supplement gives information on the study site and the experimental procedure of the study (trapping, temperature measurements, radio-tracking, number of study animals, data analysis). (DOC 32 kb)

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Dausmann, K., Glos, J., Ganzhorn, J. et al. Hibernation in a tropical primate. Nature 429, 825–826 (2004).

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