Hibernation is recorded in lower incisors of recent and fossil ground squirrels (Spermophilus)

H. Thomas Goodwin, Gail R. Michener, Daniel Gonzalez, Caroline E. Rinaldi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Incremental dentin and associated enamel, features visible on the surface of lower incisors, were characterized for 3 species of ground squirrels (Spermophilus): Pleistocene and Recent S. elegans, Recent S. richardsonii, and Recent S. parryii. A hibernation mark was evident in incisor dentin and enamel, most characteristically as a sleeve of enamel terminating basally adjacent to medially depressed dentin with indistinct and often very fine increments. This mark was absent in juveniles but present in older animals of both sexes for at least 6 weeks after hibernation, eventually being lost through growth and wear of the incisor. Temporal association with hibernation was confirmed from specimens of S. richardsonii with known dates of hibernation. Parturition and onset of lactation were usually associated with reduction in thickness of dentin increments but could not be recognized unambiguously. Combining wear stage of cheek teeth with the presence and location of the hibernation mark allowed placement of many specimens into age and season categories at time of death (young of year, early-season adults, and late-season adults). Examination of lower incisors of Pleistocene S. elegans from Porcupine Cave in central Colorado showed that hibernation was recorded in fossils and confirmed the utility of event-anchored incremental dentin in elucidating taphonomic questions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-332
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2005


  • Dentin
  • Enamel
  • Hibernation
  • Spermophilus elegans
  • Spermophilus pariyii
  • Spermophilus richardsonii
  • Taphonomy
  • Tooth wear

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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