The energetics of autumn mast hoarding in eastern chipmunks
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The timing and basis of the transition from energy reserve accumulation to reserve utilization in autumn may be a key determinant of winter survival in endotherms, but has rarely been examined directly in the field. In the present study we quantify the energetics of autumn mast hoarding in eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) to document the degree to which larder hoarding permits capitalizing on brief pulses of resource abundance and to evaluate the basis of the decision to stop hoarding and initiate hibernation. Daily energy expenditure, measured with the doubly labeled water technique, increased significantly with date and decreasing ambient temperature, eventually exceeding 3× resting metabolic rate in late autumn. Simultaneous documentation of food delivery to burrow larder hoards revealed that delivery rates were low in early autumn, extremely high for a brief period in mid-autumn, then low again in late autumn. Combining estimates of energy expenditure, consumption, and delivery yielded net energy surpluses of 1,320–4,600 kJ day–1 during the peak hoarding period, meaning total hibernation energy requirements could be acquired in 1–2 days. These results, together with measures of food availability and ambient temperature, suggest that chipmunk activity in late autumn may be affected by both the extent of hoard accumulation and thermoregulatory constraints on sustained energy expenditure. We speculate that both state-dependency and energetic ceilings on autumn hoarding behavior may enhance the capacity of the mast seeding strategy of trees to effectively swamp the foraging efforts of larder-hoarding granivores.
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