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Oecologia. 2004 Jan;138(2):202-9. Epub 2003 Nov 8.

Energetic constraints on sexual activity in the male edible dormouse (Glis glis).

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  • 1Department of Animal Physiology, Philipps-University, Marburg, Germany.


The aim of this study was to examine to what extent reproductive activity in male edible dormice (Glis glis) might be energetically constrained. Demographic data, morphometric data, and oral body temperature (T(or)) measurements were collected in two study areas between 1993 and 2002 in southwest Germany and combined with subcutaneous body temperature (T(sc)) registrations of captive dormice. T(sc) measurements were collected directly after emergence from hibernation (June) until the end of the mating season (July). Wild edible dormice showed strong fluctuations in their reproductive output between years. Not all males were sexually active each year and the number of litters born was positively correlated with the number of sexually active males, which suggests that sexual activity in males is constrained and in turn limits reproductive success. A comparison of the T(or) of sexually quiescent and active males revealed that sexually quiescent males had significantly lower T(or) (median: 28.8 degrees C; 25/75% quartiles: 16.4/31.0; n=31) than sexually active males (median: 34.2 degrees C; 25/75% quartiles: 32.0/35.6; n=156). Body condition of sexually active and quiescent males was not different after emergence from hibernation. However, sexually active males showed a significant reduction in their body condition between June and July, the time of mating, while body condition of sexually quiescent males remained constant. Continuous T(sc) registrations in captive sexually active male dormice showed strong circadian T(sc) fluctuations. Even though daily torpor bouts with T(sc) below 20 degrees C occurred in these males, most of the time T(sc) fluctuated above 30 degrees C, which is known as the critical body temperature threshold above which testes maturation can take place in this species. These results demonstrate that male dormice incur high costs due to sexual activity and that thermoregulation is determined by a trade-off between energetic savings and reproductive activity.

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