Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 175, Issue 8, pp 593–600 | Cite as

Seasonal adjustments in body mass and thermogenesis in Mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus): the roles of short photoperiod and cold

  • Xing-Sheng Li
  • De-Hua Wang
Original Paper


Seasonal adjustments in body mass and thermogenesis are important for the survival of small mammals during acclimatization in the temperate zone. To determine the contributions of short photoperiod and cold temperatures to seasonal changes in thermogenesis and body mass in Mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus), body mass, basal metabolic rate (BMR), nonshivering thermogenesis (NST), energy intake and energy digestibility were determined in seasonally acclimatized and laboratory acclimated animals. Body mass showed significant seasonal changes and decreased to a minimum in winter. Both BMR and NST increased in winter, and these changes were mimicked by exposing animals to short photoperiod or cold temperatures in the animal house. Digestible energy intake also increased significantly in winter, and also during exposure of housed animals to both short photoperiod and cold. These results suggest that Mongolian gerbils overcome winter thermoregulatory challenges by increasing energy intake and thermogenesis, and decreasing body mass to reduce total energy requirements. Short photoperiod and cold can serve as effective environmental cues during seasonal acclimatization.


Body mass Basal metabolic rate (BMR) Nonshivering thermogenesis (NST) Energy intake Mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus



We are grateful to Professor Ian Hume, University of Sydney, Australia, for his helpful comments and correcting language errors. This study was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 30170151 and 30430140) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. KSCX2-SW-103) to DHW, and the State Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Pest Insects and Rodents (IMP0302 and IMP0405).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Pest Insects and Rodents, Institute of ZoologyChinese Academy of SciencesHaidian BeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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