ARPHA Conference Abstracts : Conference Abstract
Conference Abstract
Living in a changing world: Physiological and behavioural flexibility of juvenile Garden Dormice
expand article infoSylvain Giroud, Caroline Habold§, Sebastian Vetter|, Johanna Painer, Anouck Four-Chaboussant, Steve Smith#, Caroline Gilbert¤
‡ Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, Department of Interdisciplinary Life Sciences, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria
§ University of Strasbourg, CNRS, IPHC, Department of Ecology, Physiology & Ethology, Strasbourg, France
| Institute of Animal Welfare Science, Department for Farm Animals and Veterinary Public Health, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria
¶ Auburn University, Department of Biological Sciences, Auburn, United States of America
# Konrad Lorenz Institute, Department of Interdisciplinary Life Sciences, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria
¤ UMR 7179, CNRS/MNHN, Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire d’Alfort, Laboratoire MECADEV, Maison-Alfort, France
Open Access


Heterothermy, or torpor, allows individuals to save energy by active reduction of metabolism and decreased body temperature. Social thermoregulation or huddling allows individuals to minimize energy needs while maintaining a relatively high body temperature. The Garden Dormouse (Eliomys quercinus), a highly endangered European rodent, uses both strategies of torpor and huddling, which are particularly beneficial for young individuals to cope with environmental fluctuations. Since juveniles are an important component of population renewal, determining the flexibility of energy-saving strategies and its consequences on somatic integrity of young individuals is key to protecting this species. We measured individual torpor patterns, body mass gain and structural growth, and assessed telomere dynamics in male and female juvenile Garden Dormice according to housing condition (singly or groups of four individuals) and food availability (fed ad-libitum or energy-limited) before and during hibernation. During development, juveniles used more frequent, longer and deeper torpor when housed singly than in groups. Torpor was encouraged by lower food availability. Juveniles showed similar body mass gain and growth, irrespective of experimental conditions. During hibernation, huddling dormice showed similar hibernating patterns and mass loss compared to single individuals regardless of food availability. Telomere lengthened across all individuals before hibernation, with larger elongation in males, which also experienced greater telomere loss than females during hibernation. We conclude that the use of torpor and huddling allows juvenile Garden Dormice to cope successfully with energetic bottlenecks, without major effects on somatic integrity. Future studies will need to confirm such findings under natural environmental conditions.


global change, phenotypic flexibility, energy-saving, hibernator, survival

Presenting author

Sylvain Giroud

Presented at

Oral presentation at the 11th International Dormice Conference (May 9-13, 2022)

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