Published September 21, 2023 | Version v1
Dataset Open

Data from: hibernation telomere dynamics in a shifting climate: insights from wild greater horseshoe bats

  • 1. University College Dublin
  • 2. University of Bristol


Hibernation is linked with various hypotheses to explain the extended lifespan of hibernating mammals compared with their non-hibernating counterparts. Studies on telomeres, markers of ageing and somatic maintenance, suggest telomere shortening slows during hibernation and lengthening may reflect self-maintenance with favourable conditions. Bats in temperate zones adjust body temperatures during winter torpor to conserve energy and exploit mild conditions for foraging. Climate change may impact the hibernation cycle of bats, but more research is needed regarding the role of telomeres in understanding their response to a changing climate. Here relative telomere length (rTL) was measured in the long-lived greater horseshoe bat Rhinolophus ferrumequinum (n = 223 individuals) over three winters, considering climatic conditions. Cross-sectional analyses revealed between-individual variation in rTL with a strong year effect, likely linked to varying weather conditions and foraging success. Additionally, within-individual increases of rTL occurred in 51% of consecutive measurements, with evidence of increasing telomerase expression during hibernation in this species. These findings highlight the beneficial effects of hibernation on telomeres and potential consequences of changing climatic conditions for long-lived temperate bats. Understanding the interplay between hibernation, telomeres, and climate can provide insights into the adaptive capacity and survival of bat populations facing environmental challenges.


Funding provided by: Irish Research Council
Crossref Funder Registry ID:
Award Number: GOIPG/2017/18



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