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Only known hibernating primate has unique sleep patterns

Date:
September 4, 2013
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are the only primates known to hibernate, and new research suggests their sleep patterns during hibernation are markedly different from those of ground squirrels, which also hibernate at similar temperatures.

During hibernation, non-REM sleep is absent in the lemuriform primate Cheirogaleus medius.
Credit: Mackenzie Wing, Creative Commons Attribution License

Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are the only primates known to hibernate, and new research suggests their sleep patterns during hibernation are markedly different from those of ground squirrels, which also hibernate at similar temperatures.

The results are published September 4 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Andrew Krystal and colleagues from Duke University School of Medicine and the Duke Lemur Center.

During hibernation, dwarf lemurs experience periods of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep at relatively high ambient temperatures, but no non-REM sleep. Ground squirrels, by contrast, experience only periods of non-REM sleep at high temperatures. The sleep patterns observed confirm a link between ambient temperature while sleeping and metabolic rate. Krystal explains, "We carried out the first brain electrical activity recordings in a hibernating primate and found ultra-low voltage signals during hibernation at lower ambient temperatures indicative of minimal brain activity, but at higher ambient temperatures we observed brain activity and eye movements suggestive of a REM Sleep like state.

The findings:

1) suggest that hibernation is not a state of dormancy but that sleep may occur;

2) confirm a link between temperature, metabolic rate, and sleep; and;

3) indicate that the fat-tailed dwarf lemur may serve as an alternative model for studying sleep, temperature, and metabolism which may be uniquely relevant to understanding human physiology and improving treatments for conditions such as obesity, traumatic injury, stroke, and rabies."

The results also suggest that the relationship between sleep stages, temperature and metabolism may be flexible and differ across different groups of mammals. Most previous studies have focused on hibernation sleep patterns in ground squirrels, but fat-tailed dwarf lemurs may be an important alternative study subject. The authors explain, "As the only primate known to experience prolonged periods of hibernation and as an inhabitant of more temperate climates than ground squirrels, this animal serves as an alternative model for exploring sleep temperature/metabolism relationships that may be uniquely relevant to understanding human physiology."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Andrew D. Krystal, Bobby Schopler, Susanne Kobbe, Cathy Williams, Hajanirina Rakatondrainibe, Anne D. Yoder, Peter Klopfer. The Relationship of Sleep with Temperature and Metabolic Rate in a Hibernating Primate. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (9): e69914 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069914

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Only known hibernating primate has unique sleep patterns." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130904204129.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2013, September 4). Only known hibernating primate has unique sleep patterns. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130904204129.htm
Public Library of Science. "Only known hibernating primate has unique sleep patterns." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130904204129.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

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Hibernating Lemurs Hint at the Secrets of Sleep

Sep. 4, 2013 By studying hibernation, scientists are providing a window into why humans sleep. Observations of a little-known primate called the fat-tailed dwarf lemur in captivity and the wild has revealed that ... read more
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