Thursday, 3 July 2014

Dormice 'take naps to aid chances of survival'

2nd July 2014

By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News, Manchester

The notoriously sleepy dormouse may be even sleepier than previously thought and researchers say naps help the animals survive until hibernation.

Researchers in Vienna found that when less food was available, garden dormice used a short sleep-like state called torpor to save energy.

The animals also appear to use torpor when the weather is colder.

Lead researcher Dr Sylvain Giroud from the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna compared dormice that had unlimited supplies of food with those that were fasted on alternate days.

The food-restricted dormice used torpor more frequently and entered the sleep-like state for longer than those animals that were able to feed freely.

While they are in this state, their metabolic rate slows and their body temperature is reduced, which saves energy. This allows the animals to store more body fat, which is crucial for their winter survival.

"This shows how the wild mice cope with the unpredictability of food," explained Dr Giroud.

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