Summer and winter torpor use by a free-ranging marsupial

James M. Turner*, Gerhard Körtner, Lisa Warnecke, Fritz Geiser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Torpor is usually associated with low ambient temperatures (Ta) in winter, but in some species it is also used in summer, often in response to limited food availability. Since the seasonal expression of torpor of both placental and marsupial hibernators in the wild is poorly documented by quantitative data, we investigated torpor and activity patterns of the eastern pygmy-possum Cercartetus nanus (17.4 g) over two seasons. We used radio telemetry to track animals during winter (n = 4) and summer (n = 5) in a warm-temperate habitat and found that torpor was used in both seasons. In winter all animals entered periods of short-term hibernation (from 5 to 20 days) containing individual torpor bouts of up to 5.9 days. In summer, torpor bouts were always < 1 day in duration, only used by males and were not related to daily mean Ta. Pygmy-possums entered torpor at night as Ta cooled, and rewarmed during the afternoon as Ta increased. Individuals interspersed torpor bouts with nocturnal activity and the percentage of the night animals were active was the same in summer and winter. Our study provides the first information on torpor patterns in free-ranging C. nanus, and shows that the use of torpor throughout the year is important for energy management in this species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-280
Number of pages7
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology
Issue number3
Early online date31 Mar 2012
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Burramyidae
  • Cercartetus nanus
  • hibernation
  • radio telemetry
  • season


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