Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


The power of the power nap – Scientists uncover secrets of hibernation


For hibernating mammals, the pre-winter months are a race against time to accumulate enough energy reserves to last until spring. Offspring born late in the year have much less time to achieve this.

Scientists from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology at the Vetmeduni Vienna have discovered that power-napping can help late-born garden dormice overcome these unfavourable odds. The scientists also found a link between time spent at higher temperatures and ageing. The results were published in the Journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The garden dormouse is native to Europe and lives mainly in the forest.

Photo: Stefan Stumpfel / Vetmeduni Vienna

During hibernation, dormice enter into ‘torpor’ to save energy and water. In this state, the dormice become inactive and show a marked decrease in their metabolic rate, causing their body temperature to reduce.

Torpor was then found to be a strategy used when food availability was limited. The researchers compared two groups of juveniles born late in the season – one able to feed freely and the other intermittently fasted on alternate days. The fasted dormice showed considerably greater use of torpor, enabling them to maintain high growth rates and accumulate sufficient fat reserves. “The longer an animal stays in torpor, the more energy it saves”, says Sylvain Giroud, who led the study.

Torpor use was measured using temperature loggers placed in the nests of the animals, which detected the sharp drop in body temperature occurring during torpor.

“Torpor was only viewed as a means to save energy and water, but during the last decade other functions have emerged. These include promoting growth during early life and fattening prior to hibernation, as well as slowing ageing processes” added Giroud.

Indeed, torpor and hibernation are associated with slowing ageing processes and increase of longevity. In their study, the researchers have also provided the first evidence for a functional link between time spent at high body temperature (euthermic) and ageing processes over winter. “Our data indicate that the main effects of hibernation on ageing processes are linked to euthermic episodes which are associated with the shortening of telomeres, an indicator of ageing”, the researchers concluded.

Ongoing research of Giroud’s group is now focusing on comparing late-born juvenile garden dormice with their early-born counterparts. The early-born juveniles are expected to use less torpor, to grow at a lower rate and to reach higher fattening levels prior to winter hibernation. Giroud and his colleagues are going to investigate the impact of lower growth rates and higher pre-hibernation fattening on ageing. “We hope to unravel the mechanisms involved in torpor use and ageing processes in individuals facing contrasted environmental conditions during their early life”, says Giroud.

Giroud worked together with colleagues from the University of Western Sydney (Australia) and the University of Strasbourg (France).

The article „Late-born intermittently fasted juvenile garden dormice use torpor to grow and fatten prior to hibernation: consequences for ageing processes“, by Sylvain Giroud, Sandrine Zahn, Francois Criscuolo, Isabelle Chery, Stéphane Blanc, Christopher Turbill and Thomas Ruf was published on the 5th of November in the Journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.1131

About the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
The University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna in Austria is one of the leading academic and research institutions in the field of Veterinary Sciences in Europe. About 1,300 employees and 2,300 students work on the campus in the north of Vienna which also houses five university clinics and various research sites. Outside of Vienna the university operates Teaching and Research Farms.

Scientific Contact:
Dr Sylvain Giroud
Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 1 25077-7135

Released by:
Susanna Kautschitsch
Science Communication / Public Relations
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 1 25077-1153

Weitere Informationen:

Dr. Susanna Kautschitsch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht ‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht Calcium Induces Chronic Lung Infections
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>