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The timing of hibernation in Tasmanian echidnas: why do they do it when they do?

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 13:46 authored by Stewart NicolStewart Nicol, Andersen, NA
We investigated the patterns of hibernation and arousals in seven free-ranging echidnas Tachyglossus aculeatus setosus (two male, five female) in Tasmania using implanted temperature data loggers. All echidnas showed a 'classical' pattern of mammalian hibernation, with bouts of deep torpor interrupted by periodic arousals to euthermia (mean duration 1.04±0.05 (n=146). Torpor bout length increased as body temperature fell during the hibernation season, and became more variable as temperature rose again. Hibernation started in late summer (February 28±5 days, n=6) and males aroused just before the winter solstice (June 15±3 days, n=3), females that subsequently produced young aroused 40 days later (July 25±3, n=4) while females that did not produce young hibernated for a further two months (arousal Sept 27±5, n=7). We suggest that hibernation in Tasmanian echidnas can be divided into two phases, the first phase, marked by declining minimum body temperatures as ambient temperature falls, appears to be obligatory for all animals, while the second phase is 'optional' and is utilised to varying amounts by females. We suggest that early arousal and breeding is the favoured option for females in good condition, and that the ability to completely omit breeding in some years, and hibernate through to spring is an adaptation to an uncertain climate. © 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.

History

Publication title

Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology B

Volume

131

Pagination

603-611

ISSN

1096-4959

Department/School

Tasmanian School of Medicine

Publisher

Pergamon-Elsevier Science

Place of publication

England

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in the environmental sciences

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