Behavioural and physiological consequences of male reproductive trade-offs in edible dormice (Glis glis)

Naturwissenschaften. 2010 Oct;97(10):883-90. doi: 10.1007/s00114-010-0704-9. Epub 2010 Aug 10.


Testosterone mediates male reproductive trade-offs in vertebrates including mammals. In male edible dormice (Glis glis), reproductivity linked to high levels of testosterone reduces their ability to express torpor, which may be expected to dramatically increase thermoregulatory costs. Aims of this study were therefore to analyse behavioural and physiological consequences of reproductive activity in male edible dormice under ecologically and evolutionary relevant conditions in the field. As we frequently encountered sleeping groups in the field, we hypothesized that social thermoregulation should be an important measure to reduce energy expenditure especially in sexually active male edible dormice. Our results revealed that the occurrence of sleeping groups was negatively influenced by male body mass but not by reproductive status or ambient temperature. In reproductive as in non-reproductive males, the number of individuals huddling together was negatively influenced by their body mass. Thus in general males with a high body mass were sitting in smaller groups than males with a low body mass. However, in reproductive males group size was further negatively affected by ambient temperature and positively by testes size. Thus breeders formed larger sleeping groups at lower ambient temperatures and males with larger testes were found in larger groups than males with smaller testes. Measurements of oxygen consumption demonstrated that grouping behaviour represents an efficient strategy to reduce energy expenditure in edible dormice as it reduced energy requirements by almost 40%. In summary, results of this field study showcase how sexually active male edible dormice may, through behavioural adjustment, counterbalance high thermoregulatory costs associated with reproductive activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Body Temperature Regulation
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Hibernation
  • Male
  • Myoxidae / metabolism
  • Myoxidae / physiology*
  • Myoxidae / psychology
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Seasons
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal
  • Social Behavior