Optimal Hibernation Theory

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© 2019 The Mammal Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd Hibernation has received considerable attention from physiologists and natural historians, but theoretical and ecological treatments of hibernation are rarer. There is ample recent evidence that costs associated with hibernation affect the degree to which hibernation is expressed in nature, but we currently lack a quantitative framework under which to make predictions about how the costs and benefits of hibernation interact under various environmental conditions. Here, we attempt the first steps towards building an optimal hibernation theory for making specific predictions about the expression of hibernation (i.e. the depth and duration of torpor bouts), metabolic functioning, and the total period of hibernation in mammals and birds. Our current understanding of the costs associated with hibernation do not allow for parameterisation of optimal hibernation theory, but we hope this work provides a roadmap for physiologists and ecologists to collect the necessary data in the future.