The timing of hibernation in Tasmanian echidnas: why do they do it when they do?
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Nicol, SC and Andersen, NA, The timing of hibernation in Tasmanian echidnas: why do they do it when they do?, Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology B, 131 pp. 603-611. ISSN 1096-4959 (2002) [Refereed Article]
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.
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