Thursday, 8 November 2018

Aging dormice shorten their hibernation for more reproduction



Date:  October 31, 2018
Source:  University of Veterinary Medicine -- Vienna

Edible dormice are extremely long-lived for their size thanks to their seasonal dormancy. The animals are veritable record holders in this "discipline," with hibernation periods lasting between at least six and a maximum of eleven months. The factors influencing the variable duration of the hibernation period, apart from the specific environmental conditions, have so far been unknown. Researchers at Vetmeduni Vienna hypothesised that older animals should shorten their winter dormancy in favour of a reproductive advantage. This hypothesis has now been confirmed in a database analysis, published in Scientific Reports, of dormice populations living in large outdoor enclosures. The shortened winter hibernation of aging males and females were due to an increase in reproductive activity. Older animals also delay the onset of hibernation and emerge earlier in the season.

Mammals usually have a clear correlation between body size and life history, with smaller species tending to have a shorter lifespan. Various strategies exist, however, through which small mammals, including several species of rodents, can extend their lifespan. One of the most successful of these strategies, besides flight or arboreality to escape ground predation, is hibernation. Animals like the edible dormouse (Glis glis) hibernate to avoid predators and to get through seasonal periods of low food availability. Dormice are true "sleepyheads," with an average length of dormancy between eight and nine months. The benefit of torpor, with a considerably reduced metabolism, is an exceptionally high life expectancy of up to 13 years. This makes them the Methuselah among the otherwise short-lived small rodents.


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