Sex- and concentration-dependent effects of predator feces on seasonal regulation of body mass in the bank vole Clethrionomys glareolus

Wendy L. Tidhar, Frances Bonier, John R. Speakman

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Increased perception of predation risk can cause changes in activity, feeding and reproductive behavior in a wide range of taxa. Many small mammals in the temperate zone exhibit fluctuations in body mass in response to changing photoperiod. Bank voles lose body mass in winter which they regain when photoperiod increases in the spring. To determine if predation risk affects seasonal changes in body mass (BM), bank voles were exposed to two concentrations (low: LC and high: HC) of weasel feces. Food intake (FI) and daily energy expenditure (DEE) were measured to establish if differences in body mass were due to adjustment in energy intake or expenditure. Fecal corticosterone (CORT) was measured to assess whether the voles had detected and responded to predator feces as a physiological stressor. Voles of both sexes had higher levels of fecal CORT in the groups exposed to weasel feces compared to controls. Voles responded to the predator feces in a sex- and concentration-dependent manner. Mates responded to LC feces by gaining less mass following the change in photoperiod. This was mediated by reduced FI and higher DEE. Female voles also gained less BM in response to HC feces, but increased both FI and DEE. We hypothesize that males may gain a short-term advantage by lowering BM in response to predation risk, which may be regained without affecting reproductive success. The consequences of mass loss in females may be more significant as this may delay the onset of breeding or reduce the size or number of young, thereby negatively affecting breeding success. (C) 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)436-444
Number of pages9
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007


  • predation risk
  • daily energy expenditure
  • photoperiod
  • least weasel
  • bank vole
  • fecal corticosterone
  • Mustela nivalis
  • Clethrionomys glareolus
  • doubly-labeled water
  • microtus-oeconomus pallas
  • tailed field vole
  • cold-acclimation
  • behavioral decisions
  • thermogenic capacity
  • energy-expenditure
  • temporal variation
  • feeding-behavior
  • isotope-dilution


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