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Physiol Biochem Zool. 2003 Mar-Apr;76(2):180-6.

The role of energy availability in Mammalian hibernation: an experimental test in free-ranging eastern chipmunks.

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  • 1Department of Biology, McGill University, 1205 Avenue Docteur Penfield, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1B1, Canada.


Reduced torpor expression by hibernating mammals is often attributed to physiological constraints that limit their hibernation ability but may instead reflect adaptive, plastic responses to surplus energy availability. We evaluated this hypothesis by supplementing the food hoards of free-ranging eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) before hibernation and then documenting their use of torpor during the subsequent winter. In both years of study, chipmunks that received additional food were euthermic more than twice as frequently as nonsupplemented individuals. Furthermore, when food-supplemented individuals did express torpor, their minimum collar temperature was 5 degrees -10 degrees C warmer than nonsupplemented animals. These results indicate that reduced torpor expression by hibernators can result from an absence of energetic necessity rather than a lack of physiological capability and suggest that even endotherms sequestered in a hibernaculum may benefit from maintaining an elevated body temperature whenever possible.

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