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Hibernation in monotremes: a review


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Nicol, SC, Morrow, GE and Anderson, NA 2008 , 'Hibernation in monotremes: a review', in BG Lovegrove and AE McKechnie (eds.), Hypometabolism in animals: hibernation, torpor and cryobiology , University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, pp. 251-262.

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Of the three extant genera of monotremes, the Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) is the most wide-spread, occurring in all parts of Australia, as well as in south-western New Guinea. It is also the only hibernating monotreme. The first scientific observation of echidna hibernation was made in 1825, but the first definitive evidence based on field observations was not published until 1989. In Tasmania, reproductively active echidnas hibernate from late summer until mid-winter, when mating occurs. During entry into hibernation, conductance is maximal, and cooling takes approximately 40 hrs. Like all hibernators, echidnas show periodic arousals, but unlike most hibernators, often move to another location during these arousals. This appears to be a form of behavioural thermoregulation, with echidnas seeking out cooler places early in the hibernation season, and warmer places later, to maintain body temperature in a preferred range. Maximum rewarming rates (6.2± 1.2°C hr-1) are approximately half of those of marmots of the same mass, but we have preliminary data which show that echidnas may bask during rewarming. In Tasmanian echidnas fertilisation normally occurs very close to the final arousal from hibernation, and we have found fresh sperm in the reproductive tracts of hibernating females.

Item Type: Book Section
Authors/Creators:Nicol, SC and Morrow, GE and Anderson, NA
Publisher: University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg
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