Mammalian Biology

, Volume 74, Issue 2, pp 114–124 | Cite as

Seasonal differences in the feeding ecology and behavior of male edible dormice (Glis glis)

  • Michaela M. Sailer
  • Joanna FietzEmail author
Original Investigation


Mammalian hibernators undergo dramatic seasonal changes of food intake and the use of their gastrointestinal tract. During several months of hibernation fat-storing hibernators do not use their intestinal tract for nutritional intake. However, during the rest of the year they have to increase their energy intake in order to compensate high reproductive investment and store sufficient body fat to survive the following hibernation period. Edible dormice (Glis glis) are obligate fat-storing hibernators which hibernate in Germany from September until June. Males incur high energetic costs during mating and as soon as reproduction is terminated they have to accumulate high quantities of fat to survive hibernation. In order to understand how fat-storing hibernators like edible dormice cope with these energetically demanding situations, we measured body mass changes of captured male edible dormice in the field and studied their feeding ecology. Furthermore, we measured seasonal changes in food ingestion and assimilation rates by feeding experiments carried out in captivity.

Results of this study revealed that during the mating season males significantly lowered their body mass, while food ingestion and assimilation rates remained constant. The body mass reduction showed that they used their body fat reserves to pay at least part of the energetic costs of reproduction. During the pre-hibernation fattening period males increased their body mass but held their assimilation rates on a constant level. Nevertheless, they increased the amount of ingested food and subsequently the amount of energy intake. Furthermore, they changed their dietary spectrum in the field by turning to lipid-rich seeds. These behavioral adaptations enable them to restore their energy losses during reproduction and to accumulate sufficient body fat to survive hibernation.


Glis glis Assimilation efficiency Body mass Feeding ecology Hibernation 


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Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Experimental EcologyUniversity of UlmUlmGermany

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