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Hibernation in a monotreme, the echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus).

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  • 1University of Sidney, Australia.


The body temperatures of five echidnas in Australia's Southern Alps were monitored by radio telemetry from February to December 1987. All five hibernated throughout the winter, showing very low body temperatures (4-9 degrees C, close to ambient) when torpid, compared with 28-33 degrees C in a typical day during the active season. Spontaneous arousals from hibernation occurred every 2-3 weeks, during which body temperatures rose rapidly to over 30 degrees C for several hours before dropping to be close to ambient again. The identification of "classical" hibernation in a monotreme, with a similar pattern to that seen in Eutheria and in an animal as large as the largest eutherian hibernator, has important implications for current ideas about the evolution of endothermy.

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