Research Highlights: Hibernation can prolong life in yellow-bellied marmot

By Diliff – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Hibernation can prolong life in yellow-bellied marmot

  • Animals that hibernate can live longer than would be expected based on their body size.
  • Hibernation is a process by which metabolic activities are suppressed, also called torpor, for long periods and interspersed by short periods of increased metabolism or arousal.
  • During hibernation, the torpor-arousal cycle occurs multiple times and it has been speculated that processes regulating the torpor-arousal transition cause aging to halt.
  • There is a relationship between metabolic rate and long life; thus, researchers proposed the hibernation-aging hypothesis which states that aging is temporarily halted during hibernation.
  • Researchers tested the hibernation-aging hypothesis in a well-studied population of yellow-bellied marmots.
  • Yellow-bellied marmot is a large, stout-bodied ground squirrel and also known as the rock chuck [1]
  • Yellow-bellied marmot can hibernate for up to 8 months per year.
  • Researchers estimated the epigenetic age of these marmots.
  • The result showed a logarithmic curve of epigenetic age with time.
  • Initially, epigenetic age increased at a higher rate until the female marmots reached about 2 years old.
  • At the age of 2 years, the anti-aging phenomenon begins.
  • Epigenetic age increased during the active season while hindered during hibernation.
  • Overall, the results described the hibernation-aging hypothesis and may explain the longer lives in yellow-bellied marmots.


Pinho, G.M., Martin, J.G.A., Farrell, C. et al. Hibernation slows epigenetic ageing in yellow-bellied marmots. Nat Ecol Evol (2022).

[1] Thorington, R.W., Jr.; Hoffman, R.S. (2005). “Family Sciuridae”. In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 801. ISBN978-0-8018-8221-0OCLC62265494

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