Review: A unifying, eco-physiological framework for animal dormancy

Kathryn Wilsterman, Mallory A. Ballinger and Caroline M. Williams

Animals across the tree of life, from fruit flies to bears, express some form of programmed dormancy to get through periods of the year that have low resources availability. For the most part, these dormancies are studied in silos that focus on closely related organisms, like mammals or insects; researchers working on insect dormancies rarely interact with people working on bear hibernation, and vice versa, in part because the language they use to talk about dormancy differs both semantically and conceptually. However, there are fundamental similarities in what these dormancies look like from the molecular to the behavioral level. We argue that broadening how we study dormancy to encourage discussions among people from different dormancy sub-fields would generate new ideas, identify areas of overlap, and generally help move the field forward. In order to advance this idea, we propose new terminology and a conceptual framework that can be used to guide conversations and collaborations. We use this universal framework to explore evolutionary origins of dormancy from ecological, molecular, and life history perspectives.  Lastly, we discuss the utility of this new framework and highlight opportunities and challenges for researchers to continue advancing our understanding of dormancy through a broad, comparative lens.

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