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Title: Can hibernators sense and evade fires? Olfactory acuity and locomotor performance during deep torpor
Contributor(s): Nowack, Julia  (author); Delesalle, Marine (author); Stawski, Clare  (author); Geiser, Fritz  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2016
DOI: 10.1007/s00114-016-1396-6
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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 (Tb) 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 Tbs 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 (Ta) of 15 °C (Tb ~18 °C), whereas females only raised their heads. The responses were less pronounced at Tₐ 10 °C. The first coordinated movement of possums along a branch was observed at a mean Tb of 15.6 °C, and animals were even able to climb their prehensile tail when they reached a mean Tb of 24.4 °C. Our study shows that hibernators can sense smoke and move at low Tb. However, our data also illustrate that at Tb ≤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.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: The Science of Nature: nautrwissenschaften, 103(9-10), p. 1-7
Publisher: Springer
Place of Publication: Germany
ISSN: 0028-1042
Field of Research (FOR): 060806 Animal Physiological Ecology
060899 Zoology not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Outcome Codes: 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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