Is Tropical Hibernation An Adaptation To Water Shortage

In temperate hibernators the occurrence of hibernation is interpreted as an adaptation to the combination of low ambient temperature and food scarcity. Accordingly, temperate hibernators show physiological and behavioral adaptations to low ambient and consequently low body temperature during hibernation like the fatty acid pattern of the fatty tissue or the location of their hibernacula. Due to climatic differences between temperate zones and the tropics, the intriguing question remains, which are the driving factors for the evolution of hibernation in a tropical species like C. medius? Is the occurrence of hibernation in C. medius ultimately an adaptation to food scarcity, or to water shortage? Water is definitely a scarce resource during the long dry season. It is therefore conceivable that C. medius does not only need its fat stores for energy reserves, but additionally for the extraction of metabolic water, especially as it does not hibernate in water-saturated burrows as do its temperate counterparts, but in tree holes with comparatively low humidity (Dausmann et al., 2005). This hypothesis is supported by the finding that the closely related mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) saves notable amounts of water by entering daily torpor (Schmid and Speakman, 2000).

Therefore, tropical hibernation could possibly also be considered as a measure to cope with water shortage.

Ultimately, hibernation in C. medius is a successful adaptation to both food scarcity and water shortage, taking energetic advantage of the cool nighttime temperatures of the dry season.

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