Body Mass and Tail Girth Predict Hibernation Expression in Captive Dwarf Lemurs.

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Blanco, Marina B
Greene, Lydia K
Klopfer, Peter H
Lynch, Danielle
Browning, Jenna
Ehmke, Erin E
Yoder, Anne D

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AbstractHibernation, a metabolic strategy, allows individuals to reduce energetic demands in times of energetic deficits. Hibernation is pervasive in nature, occurring in all major mammalian lineages and geographical regions; however, its expression is variable across species, populations, and individuals, suggesting that trade-offs are at play. Whereas hibernation reduces energy expenditure, energetically expensive arousals may impose physiological burdens. The torpor optimization hypothesis posits that hibernation should be expressed according to energy availability. The greater the energy surplus, the lower the hibernation output. The thrifty female hypothesis, a variation of the torpor optimization hypothesis, states that females should conserve more energy because of their more substantial reproductive costs. Contrarily, if hibernation's benefits offset its costs, hibernation may be maximized rather than optimized (e.g., hibernators with greater fat reserves could afford to hibernate longer). We assessed torpor expression in captive dwarf lemurs, primates that are obligate, seasonal, and tropical hibernators. Across 4.5 mo in winter, we subjected eight individuals at the Duke Lemur Center to conditions conducive to hibernation, recorded estimates of skin temperature hourly (a proxy for torpor), and determined body mass and tail fat reserves bimonthly. Across and between consecutive weigh-ins, heavier dwarf lemurs spent less time in torpor and lost more body mass. At equivalent body mass, females spent more time torpid and better conserved energy than did males. Although preliminary, our results support the torpor optimization and thrifty female hypotheses, suggesting that individuals optimize rather than maximize torpor according to body mass. These patterns are consistent with hibernation phenology in Madagascar, where dwarf lemurs hibernate longer in more seasonal habitats.





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Blanco, Marina B, Lydia K Greene, Peter H Klopfer, Danielle Lynch, Jenna Browning, Erin E Ehmke and Anne D Yoder (2022). Body Mass and Tail Girth Predict Hibernation Expression in Captive Dwarf Lemurs. Physiological and biochemical zoology : PBZ, 95(2). pp. 122–129. 10.1086/718222 Retrieved from

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Lydia Greene

Dir, Acad Engagement for Acad Discipline

I am currently the Director of Academic Engagement for Natural & Quantitative Sciences in Duke's Academic Advising Center. My work involves mentoring and advising undergraduates pursuing opportunities and careers in the STEM fields, and working with campus partners to develop more inclusive STEM programming.

My own research is on the ecology of lemurs in Madagascar, with a central focus on mechanisms of local adaptation in sifakas. Prior to my role as NQS DAE, I was a postdoctoral associate at the Duke Lemur Center and graduate student in Duke's Ecology Program. My dissertation research was on the role of the gut microbiome in facilitating folivory as an ecological strategy in lemurs. 


Anne Daphne Yoder

Braxton Craven Distinguished Professor of Evolutionary Biology

My work integrates field inventory activities with molecular phylogenetic techniques and geospatial analysis to investigate Madagascar, an area of the world that is biologically complex, poorly understood, and urgently threatened. Madagascar has been designated as one of the most critical geographic priorities for conservation action, retaining less than 10% of the natural habitats that existed before human colonization. It is critical that information be obtained as quickly as possible to document the biota that occurs in the remaining and highly threatened forested areas of western Madagascar, to gain an understanding of the evolutionary processes and associated distributional patterns that have shaped this diversity, and to use this information to help set conservation priorities. Phylogenetic and biogeographic analysis of Malagasy vertebrates, each with unique life-history and dispersal characteristics, are conducted to identify areas of high endemism potentially associated with underlying geological features, and also to test for the role that geographic features have played in generating patterns of vertebrate diversity and distribution. My lab also has a significant focus on capacity-building through the education and training of both American and Malagasy students. Research opportunities for American graduate students are enhanced by the formation of Malagasy/American partnerships.

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