Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemurs
For the first time, fat-tailed dwarf lemurs hibernate in captivity. They’re our closest primate relatives who hibernate in the wild. Researchers recreated the conditions that lemurs needed to hibernate. Because of this, scientists were able to learn about the metabolic processes and what they could teach us about humans. According to Smithsonian Mag, researchers “set the mood for a really good nap, and made a makeshift tree hollow for the lemurs to settle into in their enclosure. They exposed the critters to 9.5 hours of light instead of a summery 11 hours to mimic winter’s shortened daylight. Also, they lowered the enclosure’s temperature to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Because they were able to control and alter the conditions, the lemurs were fooled into thinking it was winter time. They also controlled the hibernators’ metabolic reduction, so they could tolerate the extremes without any ill effects. Interestingly enough, “despite not moving or eating for months, these animals maintain muscle mass and organ function.” They’ve also discovered that successful space travel to distant destinations would require hibernation-like states in astronauts (Smithsonian Mag).