Animal Physiology

How to weather a storm

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Science  10 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6244, pp. 151-152
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6244.151-e

Extreme weather causes sugar gliders to enter a torpid state

PHOTO: DAVIDCALLAN/ISTOCKPHOTO

Storms challenge animals with inclement conditions and reduced foraging opportunities. Generally, animals that cannot avoid a storm hunker down until it passes. The success of this strategy depends on whether the storm lasts longer than the animal's energy supplies. Species that can flexibly enter a torpid state are able to tip the scales, which suggests that such an ability is adaptive. Nowack et al. found that a population of sugar gliders, a small Australian marsupial, entered deep torpor during a severe cyclone event. The animals didn't just remain inactive, they actively decreased their metabolic rates, as is typical for true torpor but rare in this subtropical species.

Sci. Rep. 10.1038/srep11243 (2015).

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