CIE Seminar Series – 2020: Hibernation in primates: Why lemurs in hot Madagascar hibernate?

SPEAKER: Professor Kathrin Dausmann, Head of Research Unit – Functional Ecology, Institute of Zoology, University of Hamburg, Germany

DATE & TIME: Friday, 19th June 2020 @ 12:00 noon

LOCATION: Seminar to be streamed via Zoom. Click HERE to connect.


Of all fundamental principles in biology, energy expenditure is perhaps the single-most important as it is a prerequisite for life itself. In many species life history parameters, such as nutrition ecology, reproductive patterns or even social systems are shaped by energetical constraints. To cope with environmental energetic bottlenecks many small mammal species use torpor or hibernation.

Over the last decades it has become evident that not only the “classical” hibernators of temperate and arctic regions use this option, but also animal groups much less expected. One example are the lemurs of Madagascar, all living under tropical, but nevertheless seasonal and energetically demanding conditions.

Comparison of the Cheirogaleidae species showed that there is an amazing physiological flexibility in regard to their thermoregulatory adaptations, depending on the climatic parameters of their habitat and choices of hibernacula, between closely related species, between individuals of the same population, or even within the same individual, reflecting ecological and evolutionary forces.

The insight into tropical species has also taught us that the underlying ecological causes which elicit the employment of heterothermy are not restricted to seasonal adjustments. This flexibility may possibly prove beneficial in heterothermic species to master the challenges of current and future climate changes.


Kathrin decided at a young age on a family trip to Greece that she wanted to become an ant researcher, which she thought was much more fascinating than looking at any more ancient rubble. However, something went wrong somewhere along the line and she became intrigued with energetics and how animals are able to make a living on the edge and adapt to all kinds of environmental changes.

Kathrin is now a professor for Functional Ecology, focusing on ecology and energy budgets in a changing world mostly in small mammals, but also frogs, lizards and birds (not ants, so far). An almost accidental trip to Madagascar sparked her fascination for this country and she has spent a lot of time in tents and hammocks in the forests of Madagascar, chasing down friendly lemurs.

Kathrin still looks at every ant she sees and continues to be fascinated by them.

For more info click HERE.

As a courtesy, we request that when connecting to the seminar that you mute your microphone unless you are required to speak, this would ensure that the sound from the speaker to the audience is not disrupted by feedback from your microphone.

Thanking you in advance!