Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) have strong effects on hibernation and daily torpor. Increased dietary uptake of PUFA of the n-6 class, particularly of Linoleic acid (LA, C18:2 n-6) lengthens torpor bout duration and enables animals to reach lower body temperatures (T(b)) and metabolic rates. As previously hypothesized, this well-known influence of PUFA may be mediated via effects of the membrane fatty acid composition on sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca(2+-)ATPase 2a (SERCA) in the heart of hibernators. We tested the hypotheses that high proportions of n-6 PUFA in general, or specifically high proportions of LA (C18:2 n-6) in SR phospholipids (PL) should be associated with increased cardiac SERCA activity, and should allow animals to reach lower minimum T(b) in torpor. We measured activity of SERCA from hearts of hibernating and non-hibernating Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) in vitro at 35 °C. Further, we determined the PL fatty acid composition of the SR membrane of these hearts. We found that SERCA activity strongly increased as the proportion of LA in SR PL increased but was negatively affected by the content of Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; C22:6 n-3). SR PL from hibernating hamsters were characterized by high proportions of LA and low proportions of DHA. As a result, SERCA activity was significantly higher during entrance into torpor and in torpor compared to inter-bout arousal. Also, animals with increased SERCA activity reached lower T(b) during torpor. Interestingly, a subgroup of hamsters which never entered torpor but remained euthermic throughout winter displayed a phenotype similar to animals in summer. This was characterized by lower proportions of LA and increased proportions of DHA in SR membranes, which is apparently incompatible with torpor. We conclude that the PUFA composition of SR membranes affects cardiac function via modulating SERCA activity, and hence determines the minimum T(b) tolerated by hibernators.