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Can hibernators sense and evade fires? Olfactory acuity and locomotor performance during deep torpor.

Nowack, J, Delesalle, M, Stawski, C and Geiser, F (2016) Can hibernators sense and evade fires? Olfactory acuity and locomotor performance during deep torpor. Naturwissenschaften (The Science of Nature), 103 (73). ISSN 0028-1042

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Abstract

Increased habitat fragmentation, global warming and other human activities have caused a rise in the frequency of wildfires worldwide. To reduce the risks of uncontrollable fires, prescribed burns are generally conducted during the colder months of the year, a time when in many mammals torpor is expressed regularly. Torpor is crucial for energy conservation, but the low body temperatures (T b) are associated with a decreased responsiveness and torpid animals might therefore face an increased mortality risk during fires. We tested whether hibernators in deep torpor (a) can respond to the smell of smoke and (b) can climb to avoid fires at T bs below normothermic levels. Our data show that torpid eastern pygmy-possums (Cercartetus nanus) are able to detect smoke and also can climb. All males aroused from torpor when the smoke stimulus was presented at an ambient temperature (T a) of 15 °C (T b ∼18 °C), whereas females only raised their heads. The responses were less pronounced at T a 10 °C. The first coordinated movement of possums along a branch was observed at a mean T b of 15.6 °C, and animals were even able to climb their prehensile tail when they reached a mean T b of 24.4 °C. Our study shows that hibernators can sense smoke and move at low T b. However, our data also illustrate that at T b ≤13 °C, C. nanus show decreased responsiveness and locomotor performance and highlight that prescribed burns during winter should be avoided on very cold days to allow torpid animals enough time to respond.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Naturwissenschaften. The final authenticated version is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00114-016-1396-6
Uncontrolled Keywords: MD Multidisciplinary
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Q Science > QH Natural history
Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions: Natural Sciences and Psychology
Publisher: Springer Verlag
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2018 09:49
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2018 09:56
DOI or Identification number: 10.1007/s00114-016-1396-6
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/9295

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