Defending body mass during food restriction in Acomys russatus: A desert rodent that does not store food

Roee Gutman, Itzhak Choshniak, Noga Kronfeld-Schor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Golden spiny mice, which inhabit rocky deserts and do not store food, must therefore employ physiological means to cope with periods of food shortage. Here we studied the physiological means used by golden spiny mice for conserving energy during food restriction and refeeding and the mechanism by which food consumption may influence thermoregulatory mechanisms and metabolic rate. As comparison, we studied the response to food restriction of another rocky desert rodent, Wagner's gerbil, which accumulates large seed caches. Ten out of 12 food-restricted spiny mice (resistant) were able to defend their body mass after an initial decrease, as opposed to Wagner's gerbils (n = 6). Two of the spiny mice (nonresistant) kept losing weight, and their food restriction was halted. In four resistant and two nonresistant spiny mice, we measured heart rate, body temperature, and oxygen consumption during food restriction. The resistant spiny mice significantly (P < 0.05) reduced energy expenditure and entered daily torpor. The nonresistant spiny mice did not reduce their energy expenditure. The gerbils' response to food restriction was similar to that of the nonresistant spiny mice. Resistant spiny mice leptin levels dropped significantly (n = 6, P < 0.05) after 24 h of food restriction, and continued to decrease throughout food restriction, as did body fat. During refeeding, although the golden spiny mice gained fat, leptin levels were not correlated with body mass (r2 = 0.014). It is possible that this low correlation allows them to continue eating and accumulate fat when food is plentiful.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R881-R891
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • Acomys russatus
  • Body mass
  • Food restriction
  • Leptin
  • Torpor


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