The edible dormouse (Glis glis) is a small rodent and an obligate hibernator. Dormice undergo strong fluctuations of reproductive output during years that seem to be timed to coincide with future food supply. This behaviour enables them to avoid producing young that will starve with a high probability due to food shortage, and to increase their lifetime reproductive success. Aims of this study were to elucidate the extent to which feeding ecology in the edible dormouse has an impact on body mass and the fatty acid (FA) pattern of the white adipose tissue (WAT) before and after hibernation, which in turn might influence reproductive status in spring. Dormice show strong seasonal fluctuations of the body mass, which is reduced by one third during hibernation. Body mass and its changes depend on autumnal food availability as well as on the dietary FA pattern. During the pre-hibernation fattening period, dormice eat lipid rich food with a high content of linoleic acid. During hibernation, linoleic acid content is slightly but significantly reduced and body mass loss during winter is negatively correlated with the pre-hibernation linoleic acid content in the WAT. No relation between reproductive status and body mass, body condition or the FAs pattern of the WAT could be detected. However, in a year of high reproduction, dormice commence the shift to seed eating earlier than in a year of low reproduction. These seeds could be either a predictor for future food supply in autumn, or represent a high-energy food compensating high energetic costs of sexual activity in male edible dormice.
Adaptation, Physiological Adipose Tissue/chemistry Animals Body Mass Index Diet Dietary Fats/metabolism* Ecology Fatty Acids/analysis Fatty Acids/metabolism* Female Food Deprivation* Hibernation/physiology* Male Muscidae/physiology* Reproduction* Seasons Seeds