Mammals are often considered to be masters of homeostasis, with the ability to maintain a constant internal milieu, despite marked changes in the environment; however, many species exhibit striking physiological and biochemical plasticity in the face of environmental fluctuations. Here, we review metabolic depression and body temperature fluctuation in mammals, with a focus on the extreme example of hibernation in small-bodied eutherian species. Careful exploitation of the phenotypic plasticity of mammals with metabolic flexibility may provide the key to unlocking the molecular secrets of orchestrating and surviving reversible metabolic depression in less plastic species, including humans.
©2015 Int. Union Physiol. Sci./Am. Physiol. Soc.