Two strategies for coping with food shortage in desert golden spiny mice

Roee Gutman, Dotan Yosha, Itzhak Choshniak, Noga Kronfeld-Schor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Desert rodents face periods of food shortage and use different strategies for coping with it, including changes in activity level. Golden spiny mice (Acomys russatus) inhabit rock crevasses and do not dig burrows nor store food. When kept under 50% food restriction most, but not all, golden spiny mice defend their body mass by physiological means. We tested the hypothesis that these rodents use two different behavioral strategies, i.e., increasing activity level and searching for food or decreasing activity level and conserving energy to cope with food shortage. Twelve golden spiny mice were fed ad libitum for 14 days, followed by 40 days of 50% food restriction, and 14 days of refeeding. Body mass, food consumption and general activity were monitored. Seven mice significantly reduced activity level, concentrating their activity around feeding time, lowering energy expenditure and thus keeping their body mass constant ("resistant"), while five ("non-resistant") significantly increased activity level (possibly searching for food) and thus energy expenditure, thereby losing mass rapidly (more than 25% of body mass). The non-resistant golden spiny mice were active throughout many hours of the day, with high variability both between and among individuals. The use of two strategies to cope with food shortage as found in the golden spiny mice may be of evolutionary advantage, since it allows a more flexible reaction to food restriction at the population level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-102
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - 30 Jan 2007


  • Acomys
  • Activity patterns
  • Body mass
  • Circadian rhythms
  • Desert
  • Food restriction
  • Starvation-induced hyperactivity


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