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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2004 Jul;287(1):R167-73. Epub 2004 Mar 11.

Increased heat loss affects hibernation in golden-mantled ground squirrels.

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Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, Jordan Hall, Rm. 1229, 1300 Jefferson Park Ave., Univ. of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.


During hibernation at ambient temperatures (T(a)) above 0 degrees C, rodents typically maintain body temperature (T(b)) approximately 1 degrees C above T(a), reduce metabolic rate, and suspend or substantially reduce many physiological functions. We tested the extent to which the presence of an insulative pelage affects hibernation. T(b) was recorded telemetrically in golden-mantled ground squirrels (Spermophilus lateralis) housed at a T(a) of 5 degrees C; food intake and body mass were measured at regular intervals throughout the hibernation season and after the terminal arousal. Animals were subjected to complete removal of the dorsal fur or a control procedure after they had been in hibernation for 3-4 wk. Shaved squirrels continued to hibernate with little or no change in minimum T(b), bout duration, duration of periodic normothermic bouts, and food intake during normothermia. Rates of rewarming from torpor were, however, significantly slower in shaved squirrels, and rates of body mass loss were significantly higher, indicating increased depletion of white adipose energy stores. An insulative pelage evidently conserves energy over the course of the hibernation season by decreasing body heat loss and reducing energy expenditure during periodic arousals from torpor and subsequent intervals of normothermia. This prolongs the hibernation season by several weeks, thereby eliminating the debilitating consequences associated with premature emergence from hibernation.

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