Low Temperature Effects and Social Influences on Physiological Condition of Subadult Wild Rabbits
The effects of low ambient temperature and of social factors on the physiological condition of subadult European wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus L.) during the winter season were studied in a population living under semi-natural conditions. Total serum protein, serum concentration of ß-hydroxybutyrate and body mass were monitored monthly and percentage of glycated haemoglobin was determined once in late winter. Social integration of subadults was assessed by direct observations. A close relationship between fluctuations of ambient temperature, serum protein levels and body mass was found. The results indicate that protein reserves rather than body lipids but were the important energy resource of subadult rabbits during the winter season. Negative effects on physiological parameters were closely related to higher mortality rates and to a shortened survival time respectively. The percentage of glycated haemoglobin and levels of serum protein were correlated with the degree of social integration whereas the relation to serum protein was only apparent in dispersers. I hypothesize that the negative physiological effects of the cold on subadults can be reduced either by mechanisms of social support and/or by thermoregulatory benefit.
KeywordsSerum Protein Winter Season Social Integration Body Lipid Total Serum Protein
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