There appears to be a link between hibernation and longevity.
Small furry mammals partial to a daily dose of hibernation in winter are probably extending their lifespan at the same time, according to a study published Wednesday.
Experiments with Djugarian hamsters native to Siberia showed that when the tiny rodents temporarily lower their metabolism and body temperatures, a state called torpor, it stops and even reverses a natural breakdown of chromosomes linked to ageing.
Previous studies had hinted at a causal link between hibernation and longevity, but this is the first one to show the biological mechanism that may account for it.
In the laboratory, researchers led by Christopher Turbill of the Institute for Wildlife Ecology in Vienna created an artificial environment for 25 adult virgin female hamsters, offering only eight hours of light per day.
The faux-winter conditions were designed to trigger a hibernation response, according to the study, published Wednesday by the British Royal Society in the journal Biology Letters.