Hibernation in malagasy mouse lemurs as a strategy to counter environmental challenge

  • Kobbe S
  • Dausmann K
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The spiny forest of southwestern Madagascar is the driest and most unpredictable region of the island. It is characterized by a pronounced seasonality with high fluctuations in ambient temperature, low availability of food, and a lack of water during the cool dry season and, additionally, by changes in environmental conditions between years. One of the few mammalian species that manages to inhabit this challenging habitat is the reddishgray mouse lemur (Microcebus griseorufus). The aim of our study was to determine whether this small primate uses continuous hibernation as an energy saving strategy, and if so, to characterize its physiological properties. We measured skin temperature of 16 free-ranging individuals continuously over 3 months during the cool dry season using collar temperature data loggers. Prolonged hibernation was found in three mouse lemurs and was not sex dependent (one male, two females). Skin temperature of hibernating individuals tracked ambient temperature passively with a minimum skin temperature of 6.5°C and fluctuated strongly each day (up to 20°C), depending on the insulation capacity of the hibernacula. Individuals remained in continuous hibernation even at an ambient temperature of 37°C. The animals hibernated continuously during the dry season, and hibernation bouts were only interrupted by short spontaneous arousals. The study emphasizes that hibernation is an important measure to counter environmental challenge for more tropical species than previously thought, including primates. It furthermore provides evidence that tropical hibernation is functionally similar among tropical species.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Body temperature
  • Hibernation
  • Madagascar
  • Microcebus griseorufus
  • Tropics

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  • Susanne Kobbe

  • Kathrin H. Dausmann

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