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Torpor on Demand: Heterothermy in the Non-Lemur Primate Galago moholi

Nowack, J, Mzilikazi, N and Dausmann, KH (2010) Torpor on Demand: Heterothermy in the Non-Lemur Primate Galago moholi. PLoS ONE, 5 (5). ISSN 1932-6203

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Background: Hibernation and daily torpor are energy- and water-saving adaptations employed to survive unfavourable periods mostly in temperate and arctic environments, but also in tropical and arid climates. Heterothermy has been found in a number of mammalian orders, but within the primates so far it seems to be restricted to one family of Malagasy lemurs. As currently there is no evidence of heterothermy of a primate outside of Madagascar, the aim of our study was to investigate whether small primates from mainland Africa are indeed always homeothermic despite pronounced seasonal changes in weather and food availability. Methodology/Principal Findings:One of the nearest relatives of Malagasy lemurs, the African lesser bushbaby, Galago moholi, which inhabits a highly seasonal habitat with a hot wet-season and a cold dry-season with lower food abundance, was investigated to determine whether it is capable of heterothermy. We measured skin temperature of free-ranging individuals throughout the cool dry season using temperature-sensitive collars as well as metabolic rate in captured individuals. Torpor was employed by 15% of 20 animals. Only one of these animals displayed heterothermy in response to natural availability of food and water, whereas the other animals became torpid without access to food and water. Conclusions/Significance: Our results show that G. moholi are physiologically capable of employing torpor. However they do not use it as a routine behaviour, but only under adverse conditions. This reluctance is presumably a result of conflicting selective pressures for energy savings versus other ecological and evolutionary forces, such as reproduction or territory defence. Our results support the view that heterothermy in primates evolved before the division of African and Malagasy Strepsirhini, with the possible implication that more primate species than previously thought might still have the potential to call upon this possibility, if the situation necessitates it.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions: Biological & Environmental Sciences (from Sep 19)
Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)
Date Deposited: 07 May 2021 08:48
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2021 05:30
DOI or ID number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010797
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/14947
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