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Aestivation (from Latin aestas, summer, but also spelled "estivation" in the USA) is a state of animal dormancy,[1] characterized by inactivity and a lowered metabolic rate, that is entered in response to high temperatures and arid conditions.[2] It takes place during times of heat and dryness, the hot dry season, which is often but not necessarily the summer months.[citation needed]

Invertebrate and vertebrate animals are known to enter this state to avoid damage from high temperatures and the risk of desiccation. Both terrestrial and aquatic animals undergo aestivation.[citation needed]



Introduced Theba pisana snails aestivating on a row of fence posts in Kadina, South Australia


Numerous individuals of the snail Cernuella virgata aestivating on a wire fence near Glanum, in the south of France.


Gastropoda: Some air-breathing land snails, including species in the genera Helix, Cernuella, Theba, Helicella, Achatina and Otala, commonly aestivate during periods of heat. Some species move into shaded vegetation or rubble. Others climb up tall plants, including crop species as well as bushes and trees, and will also climb man-made structures such as posts, fences, etc.

The habit of climbing vegetation to aestivate has caused more than one introduced snail species to be declared an agricultural nuisance.

To seal the opening to their shell to prevent water loss, pulmonate land snails secrete a membrane of dried mucus called an epiphragm. In certain species, such as Helix pomatia, this barrier is reinforced with calcium carbonate, and thus it superficially resembles an operculum, except that it has a tiny hole to allow some oxygen exchange.[citation needed]

There is decrease in metabolic rate and reducing rate of water loss in estivating snails like Rhagada tescorum,[3] Sphincterochila boissieri and others.


Insecta: Lady beetles (Coccinellidae) have been reported to aestivate.[4]

Crustacea: Many land crabs spend dry seasons in an inactive state at the bottom of their burrows.[citation needed]


Reptiles and amphibians

Non-mammalian animals that aestivate include North American desert tortoises, crocodiles, and salamanders. Some amphibians (e.g. the cane toad and greater siren) aestivate during the hot dry season by moving underground where it is cooler and more humid. The California red-legged frog may aestivate to conserve energy when its food and water supply is low.[citation needed]

The Water-holding Frog has an aestivation cycle. It buries itself in sandy ground in a secreted, water-tight mucus cocoon during periods of hot, dry weather. Australian Aborigines discovered a means to take advantage of this by digging up one of these frogs and gently squeezing it, causing the frog to release some of the fresh water it stores for itself in its bladder and skin pockets. This water can be drunk by the Aborigine, who then releases the frog.[citation needed]

African lungfish also aestivate.[citation needed]


Although relatively uncommon, a small number of mammals aestivate.[5] Animal physiologist Kathrin Dausmann of Philipps University of Marburg, Germany, and coworkers presented evidence in the 24 June 2004 edition of Nature that the Malagasy fat-tailed dwarf lemur hibernates or aestivates in a small tree hole for seven months of the year.[6] According to the Oakland Zoo in California, East African Hedgehogs are thought to estivate during the dry season.

See also

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  1. Somewhat similar to hibernation
  2. Miller, William Charles (2007). Trace fossils: concepts, problems, prospects, Elsevier.
  3. Philip Withers, Scott Pedler & Michael Guppy. 1997. Physiological Adjustments during Aestivation by the Australian Land Snail Rhagada tescorum (Mollusca: Pulmonata: Camaenidae). Australian Journal of Zoology 45(6) 599 - 611. abstract.
  4. Hagen, K.S. (1962) Biology and Ecology of Predaceous Coccinellidae. Annual Review of Entomology Vol. 7: 289-326
  5. McNab, Brian Keith (2002). The physiological ecology of vertebrates: a view from energetics, Cornell University Press.
  6. (24 June 2004)Physiology: Hibernation in a tropical primate 429 (6994): 825–826.

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