Title (eng)

Food availability positively affects the survival and somatic maintenance of hibernating garden dormice (Eliomys quercinus)


Sylvain Giroud   University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

Thomas Ruf   University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

Julia Nowack   University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna / Liverpool John Moores University

Steve Smith   University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

Franz Hoelzl   University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

Marie-Therese Ragger   University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

Amélie Baille   University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna



Description (eng)

Torpor is an energy saving strategy achieved by substantial reductions of metabolic rate and body temperature that enables animals to survive periods of low resource availability. During hibernation (multiday torpor), the frequency of periodic rewarming-characterised by high levels of oxidative stress-is associated with shortening of telomeres, a marker of somatic maintenance. In this study, we determined the impact of ambient temperature on feeding behaviour and telomere dynamics in hibernating garden dormice (Eliomys quercinus) over winter. This obligate hibernator prepares for hibernation by accumulating fat stores but can also feed during hibernation.Food intake, torpor pattern, changes in telomere length, and body mass change were assessed in animals housed at experimentally controlled temperatures of either 14 °C (i.e., a mild winter) or 3 °C (i.e., a cold winter) over 6 months. When hibernating at 14 °C, dormice experienced 1.7-fold more frequent and 2.4-fold longer inter-bout euthermia, and spent significantly less time torpid, compared to animals hibernating at 3 °C. Higher food intake enabled individuals to compensate for increased energetic costs when hibernating at milder temperatures (14 °C vs. 3 °C), to buffer body mass loss and thus increase winter survival. Interestingly, we observed a significant increase of telomere length over the entire hibernation period, irrespective of temperature treatment. We conclude that higher temperatures during winter, if associated with sufficient food availability, can have a positive effect on the individual's energy balance and somatic maintenance. These results suggest that winter food availability might be a crucial determinant for the survival of the garden dormouse in the context of ever-increasing environmental temperatures.

Object languages





Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
CC BY 4.0 - Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

CC BY 4.0 International



Mammalian Hibernation; Telomere Length; Ground-Squirrel; Daily Torpor; Oxidative Stress; Eastern Chipmunk; Climate-Change; Orange Groves; Stem-Cells; Body-Mass

Member of the Collection(s) (1)

o:605 Publications / University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna