Food hoard size varies inversely with body fat levels in Siberian hamsters. If food hoarding only increases when body fat decreases, then hamsters foraging for their food should only increase food hoarding when foraging efforts decrease body fat ("lipostatic hypothesis"); however, if food hoarding increases whenever there is an energy flux away from fat storage, then it should increase regardless of significant body fat decreases ("metabolic hypothesis"). Female Siberian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus) earned food pellets after completion of a programmed number of wheel revolutions (Immobilized Wheel [free access to food], Free Wheel [wheel active, free food], and 10, 50, 100, and 200 revolutions/pellet). Hamsters were killed after 19 days and inguinal, retroperitoneal, and parametrial white adipose tissue (WAT) pads (IWAT, RWAT, and PWAT, respectively) were harvested and carcass composition determined. Food hoard size increased fourfold with the availability of running wheels alone (Free Wheel), increased threefold with low foraging levels (10 and 50 revolutions/pellet), but was nearly abolished at the highest foraging level (200 revolutions/pellet). Surplus food (earned, not eaten or hoarded) was significantly greatest at the lowest level of foraging. As foraging effort increased, PWAT mass decreased the most (<10 revolutions/pellet), while RWAT and IWAT mass only were decreased at the highest foraging effort. Carcass lipid content only was significantly decreased at the highest foraging effort, yet food hoarding was nearly abolished at that level. Collectively, these results demonstrate that body fat levels and food hoarding can be uncoupled with increases in foraging effort. J. Exp. Zool. 289:162-171, 2001.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.