The Effect Of Temperature On Preference For Dietary Unsaturated Fatty Acids In The Djungarian Hamster (Phodopus Sungorus)

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Canadian Journal Of Zoology


Previous studies have shown that hibernators preparing for winter prefer a diet rich in unsaturated fat. This study was designed to determine if a daily heterotherm, the Djungarian hamster (Phodopus sungorus), shows a similar preference when given simultaneous access to two diets, one rich in saturated fat and the other rich in unsaturated fat. In two experiments, hamsters that had been exposed to short days for 8-10 weeks were exposed to 8°C for 10 days. When half of these animals were moved to a warm environment (26-29°C), they developed a significantly lower preference for the unsaturated diet than controls that remained at 8°C (P < 0.01). This difference in preference disappeared when the experimental group was returned to 8°C (P = 0.4). Although mean body temperature (Tb) was significantly lower (mean difference = 0.35°C) in experimental animals in the cold environment, most animals did not enter daily torpor at any time during the experiment. Together, these results suggest that the large decreases in core Tb accompanying torpor, originally assumed to necessitate the incorporation of unsaturated fatty acids into cell membranes of hibernators and daily heterotherms, are not necessary to stimulate changes in food choice.

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