Ageing can progress at different rates according to an individual"s physiological state. Natural hypothermia, including torpor and hibernation, is a common adaptation of small mammals to survive intermittent or seasonal declines in environmental conditions. In addition to allowing energy savings, hypothermia and torpor have been associated with retarded ageing and increased longevity. We tested the hypothesis that torpor use slows ageing by measuring changes in the relative telomere length (RTL) of Djungarian hamsters, Phodopus sungorus, a highly seasonal rodent using spontaneous daily torpor, over 180 days of exposure to a short-day photoperiod and warm (approx. 20°C) or cold (approx. 9°C) air temperatures. Multi-model inference showed that change in RTL within individuals was best explained by positive effects of frequency of torpor use, particularly at low body temperatures, as well as the change in body mass and initial RTL. Telomere dynamics have been linked to future survival and proposed as an index of rates of biological ageing. Our results therefore support the hypothesis that daily torpor is associated with physiological changes that increase somatic maintenance and slow the processes of ageing.
Animals Body Temperature Regulation* Cold Temperature Cricetinae Female Hot Temperature Motor Activity Phodopus/physiology* Photoperiod Polymerase Chain Reaction Seasons Telomere/chemistry Telomere Homeostasis*