VILLUM Fonden Experiment Project

Snow Queen and Odin in the Pleistocene –

did our relatives hibernate?

Hibernation is a metabolic mechanism by which warm-blooded mammals increase their ability to survive periods of extreme dietary and/or thermoregulatory stress. It is a survival strategy utilised by several groups of vertebrates, including some mostly smaller-sized mammals. Recently, it has been suggested that some Middle Pleistocene hominins had the ability to hibernate as well. This is based on skeletal malformations indicative of metabolic dysregulation of bone formation. However, the underlying mechanism for potential hibernation in hominins remains an enigma.

In this project, we will determine the possible molecular consequences of mammalian hibernation in skeletal tissues. We aim to build a comparative framework utilising a multi-omics approach based on modern and recent skeletal remains from a range of mammalian species. This will then allow us to assess the presence of hibernation episodes in Pleistocene mammals.