Huddling, locomotor, and nest-building behaviors of furred and furless Siberian hamsters

Physiol Behav. 2003 Jul;79(2):247-56. doi: 10.1016/s0031-9384(03)00115-x.


Rodents living in the cold employ both behavioral and physiological mechanisms to achieve thermoregulation. We examined the impact of fur loss on behavioral thermoregulation in cold-challenged Siberian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus). Intact female hamsters exposed to an ambient temperature (T(a)) of 5 degrees C increased their general locomotor activity by 50% relative to animals maintained at 23 degrees C. At both T(a)'s, fur removal resulted in substantial increases in daily food intake (37% and 22% at 5 and 23 degrees C, respectively) but did not affect the amount of locomotor activity; increased food intake after fur loss evidently is not caused by increases in locomotor activity. Furred hamsters housed in groups of three at 5 degrees C consumed 16% less food per day than did singly housed individuals. Fur removal resulted in identical 39% increases in food intake in group- or singly housed animals. Energy savings that accrued from huddling were identical in furred and furless animals; this behavior conserves energy even in the absence of an insulative pelage. The availability of nesting material resulted in an 18% reduction in food consumption in intact animals kept at 5 degrees C. The increase in food intake produced by fur removal was attenuated by approximately 80% when furless animals had access to nesting material. Huddling and nest-building behaviors each ameliorate energetic challenges posed by absence of fur; animals that concurrently employ several modes of thermoregulation realize substantial energy savings in the cold.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Body Weight
  • Cold Temperature
  • Cricetinae
  • Eating / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Female
  • Hair / physiology*
  • Housing, Animal
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Nesting Behavior / physiology*
  • Phodopus / anatomy & histology
  • Phodopus / physiology*
  • Phodopus / psychology*
  • Social Isolation