Skip to main content

Foraging behavior of golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) in the wild

Abstract

Foraging theory posits that animals should maximize energy gains while minimizing risks, the largest of which is usually predation. For small burrowing mammals the best measure of risk avoidance may be the time spent in the burrow, although this measure is rarely examined. During the spring of 2005 and 2006 we recorded the foraging behavior of female golden hamsters in their natural habitat in southern Turkey. Data were collected with a data logger and by direct observations. Female golden hamsters averaged 64 min per day above ground in a series of foraging trips with a mean duration of 5.5 min. Two nursing females increased their time out of the burrow by a factor of 6–8 times over the course of 16 days by increasing both the number of trips and the length of each trip. These results show that hamsters spend little time out of the burrow, thus minimizing risk, but they also show that time spent out of the burrow is related to the energy needs of the hamsters; lactating females with high energy needs exposed themselves to much greater risk than did non-lactating females.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  • Arenz CL, Leger DW (2000) Antipredator vigilance of juvenile and adult thirteen-lined ground squirrels and the role of nutritional need. Anim Behav 59(3):35–541

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bhatia AJ, Wade GN (1991) Effects of pregnancy and ovarian steroids on fatty acid synthesis and uptake in Syrian hamsters. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 260(1):R153–R158

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Bhatia AJ, Schneider JE, Wade GN (1995) Thermoregulatory and maternal nest building in Syrian hamsters: interaction of ovarian steroids and energy demand. Physiol Behav 58(1):141–146

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Blumstein DT, Runyan A, Seymour M, Nicodemus A, Ozgul A, Ransler F, Im S, Stark T, Zugmeyer C, Daniel JC (2004) Locomotor ability and wariness in yellow-bellied marmots. Ethology 110(8):615–634

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bowers MA (1995) Use of space and habitats by the eastern chipmunk, Tamias striatus. J Mammal 76(1):12–21

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bowers MA, Ellis A (1993) Load size variation in the Eastern chipmunk, Tamias striatus: the importance of distance from burrow and canopy cover. Ethology 94:72–82

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown JS (1988) Patch use as an indicator of habitat preference, predation risk, and competition. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 22(1):37–47

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Buckley CA, Schneider JE (2003) Food hoarding, but not food intake is increased by food deprivation and decreased by leptin treatment in Syrian hamsters. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 285(5):R1021–R1029

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Corp N, Gorman ML, Speakman JR (1997) Ranging behaviour and time budgets of male wood mice Apodemus sylvaticus in different habitats and seasons. Oecologia 109(2):242–250

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DiBattista D (1999) Operant responding for dietary protein in the golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus). Physiol Behav 67(1):95–98

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Emlen JM (1966) The role of time and energy in food preference. Am Nat 100(916):611–617

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Etienne AS, Hurni C, Maurer R, Seguinot V (1991) Twofold path integration during hoarding in the golden hamster? Ethol Ecol Evol 3(1):1–11

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Everts LG, Strijkstra AM, Hut RA, Hoffmann IE, Millesi E (2004) Seasonal variation in daily activity patterns of free-ranging European ground squirrels (Spermophilus citellus). Chronobiol Int 21:57–71

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fenn MGP, MacDonald DW (1995) Use of middens by red foxes: risk reverses rhythms of rats. J Mammal 76(1):130–136

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fleming AS (1978) Food intake and body weight regulation during the reproductive cycle of the golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus). Behav Biol 24:291–306

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Fleming AS, Miceli M (1983) Effects of diet on feeding and body weight regulation during pregnancy and lactation in the golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus). Behav Neurosci 97(2):246–254

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Garton DW, Hsu MJ, Harder JD (1994) Environmental temperature and metabolic rates during gestation and lactation in golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus). Physiol Zool 67:497–514

    Google Scholar 

  • Gattermann R, Fritzsche P, Neumann K, Al-Hussein I, Kayser A, Abiad M, Yakti R (2001) Notes on the current distribution and the ecology of wild golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus). J Zool 254(3):359–365

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gattermann R, Johnston RE, Yigit RN, Fritzsche P, Larimer S, Özkurt S, Neumann K, Song Z, Colak E, Johnston J, McPhee ME (2008) Golden hamsters are nocturnal in captivity but diurnal in nature. Biol Lett 4:253–255

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gravetter FJ, Wallnau LB (2004) Statistics for the behavioral sciences, 6th edn. Thomson Wadsworth, Belmont

    Google Scholar 

  • Guerra RF, Ades C (2002) An analysis of travel costs on transport of load and nest building in golden hamster. Behav Process 57(1):7–28

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hayes LD, Chesh AS, Ebensperger LA (2007) Ecological predictors of range areas and use of burrow systems in the diurnal rodent Octodon degus. Ethology 113:155–165

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hsu MJ, Garton DW, Harder JD (1999) Energetics of offspring production: a comparison of a marsupial (Monodelphis domestica) and a eutherian (Mesocricetus auratus). J Comp Physiol B Biochem Syst Environ Physiol 169(1):67–76

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hubbs AH, Boonstra R (1998) Effects of food and predators on the home-range sizes of Arctic ground squirrels (Spermophilus parryii). Can J Zool 76(3):592–596

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jackson TP (2001) Factors influencing food collection behaviour of Brants’ whistling rat (Parotomys brantsii): a central place forager. J Zool Lond 255:15–23

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jones CH, McGhee R, Wilkie DM (1990) Hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) use spatial memory in foraging for food to hoard. Behav Process 21:179–187

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Keen-Rhinehart E, Dailey MJ, Bartness T (2010) Physiological mechanisms for food-hoarding motivation in animals. Philos Trans R Soc B 365:961–975

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kenagy GJ (1973) Daily and seasonal patterns of activity and energetics in a heteromyid rodent community. Ecology 54(6):1201–1219

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kenagy GJ, Vasquez RA, Nespolo RF, Bozinovic F (2002) A time-energy analysis of daytime surface activity in degus, Octodon degus. Rev Chil Hist Nat 75(1):149–156

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kitchen AM, Gese EM, Schauster ER (2000) Changes in coyote activity patterns due to reduced exposure to human persecution. Can J Zool 78(5):853–857

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Koprowski JL, Corse MC (2005) Time budgets, activity periods, and behavior of Mexican fox squirrels. J Mammal 86(5):947–952

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kotler BP, Brown JS, Dall SRX, Gresser S, Ganey D, Bouskila A (2002) Foraging games between gerbils and their predators: temporal dynamics of resource depletion and apprehension in gerbils. Evol Ecol Res 4(4):495–518

    Google Scholar 

  • Kramer DL, Nowell W (1980) Central place foraging in the Eastern chipmunk, Tamias striatus. Anim Behav 28(3):772–778

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lanier DL, Estep DQ, Dewsbury DA (1974) Food hoarding in muroid rodents. Behav Biol 11:177–187

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Larimer SC (2007) Golden hamsters, Mesocricetus auratus, as a model species for studying circadian rhythms and olfactory memory: studies in lab and in nature. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

  • Lea SEG, Tarpy RM (1986) Hamsters’ demand for food to eat and hoard as a function of deprivation and cost. Anim Behav 34(6):1759–1768

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lima SL, Dill LM (1990) Behavioral decisions made under the risk of predation: a review and prospectus. Can J Zool 68(4):619–640

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Loughry WJ (1993) Determinants of time allocation by adult and yearling black-tailed prairie dogs. Behaviour 124(1–2):23–43

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • MacArthur RH, Pianka ER (1966) On optimal use of a patchy environment. Am Nat 100(916):603–609

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Macdonald DW, Atkinson RPD, Blanchard G (1997) Spatial and temporal patterns in the activity of European moles. Oecologia 109:88–97

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miceli MO, Malsbury CW (1982) Sagittal knife cuts in the near and far lateral preoptic area-hypothalamus disrupt maternal behaviour in female hamsters. Physiol Behav 28(5):857–867

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Millar JS (1979) Energetics of lactation in Peromyscus maniculatus. Can J Zool 57:1015–1019

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Morrison S, Barton L, Caputa P, Hik DS (2004) Forage selection by collared pikas, Ochotona collaris, under varying degrees of predation risk. Can J Zool 82(4):533–540

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ottoni EB, Ades C (1991) Resource location and structural properties of the nestbox as determinants of nest-site selection in the golden hamster. Anim Learn Behav 19(3):234–240

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ovadia O, Ziv Y, Abramsky Z, Pinshow B, Kotler BP (2001) Harvest rates and foraging strategies in Negev Desert gerbils. Behav Ecol 12(2):219–226

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Perrigo G (1987) Breeding and feeding strategies in deer mice and house mice when females are challenged to work for their food. Anim Behav 35:1298–1316

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Perrigo G (1990) Food, sex, time, and effort in a small mammal: energy allocation strategies for survival and reproduction. Behaviour 114(1/4):191–205

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Quek VS, Trayhurn P (1990) Calorimetric study of the energetics of pregnancy in golden hamsters. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 259(4):R807–R812

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Rehmeier RL (2005) Factors influencing nightly activity of deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) in tallgrass prairie. Ph.D. dissertation, Division of Biology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS

  • Reichman OJ, Roberts E (1994) Computer simulation analysis of foraging by heteromyid rodents in relation to seed distributions: implications for coexistence. Aust J Zool 42(4):467–477

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rink RD (1969) Oxygen consumption, body temperature, and brown adipose tissue in the postnatal golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus). J Exp Zool 170(1):117–123

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Scribner SJ, Wynne-Edwards KE (1994) Disruption of body temperature and behavior rhythms during reproduction in dwarf hamsters (Phodopus). Physiol Behav 55(2):361–369

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Sharpe F, Rosell F (2003) Time budgets and sex differences in the Eurasian beaver. Anim Behav 66(6):1059–1067

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sharpe PB, Van Horne B (1998) Influence of habitat on behavior of Townsend’s ground squirrels (Spermophilus townsendii). J Mammal 79(3):906–918

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith RJ (1995) Harvest rates and escape speeds in two coexisting species of montane ground squirrels. J Mammal 76(1):189–195

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sokoloff G, Blumberg MS (2002) Contributions of endothermy to huddling behavior in infant Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) and Syrian golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus). J Comp Psychol 116(3):240–246

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sommer S (2000) Sex-specific predation on a monogamous rat, Hypogeomys antimena (Muridae: Nesomyinae). Anim Behav 59(6):1087–1094

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thorson JM, Morgan RA, Brown JS, Norman JE (1998) Direct and indirect cues of predatory risk and patch use by fox squirrels and thirteen-lined ground squirrels. Behav Ecol 9(2):151–157

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Verdolin JL (2006) Meta-analysis of foraging and predation risk trade-offs in terrestrial systems. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 60(4):457–464

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vispo CR, Bakken GS (1993) The influence of thermal conditions on the surface activity of thirteen-lined ground squirrels. Ecology 74:377–389

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wade GN, Jennings G, Trayhurn P (1986) Energy balance and brown adipose tissue thermogenesis during pregnancy in Syrian hamsters. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 250(5):R845–R850

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Weinhold U, Kayser A (2006) Der Feldhamster. Die neue Brehmbücherei Bd. 625, Westarp Wissenschaften, Hohenwarsleben

  • Whishaw IQ (1993) Activation, travel distance, and environmental change influence food carrying in rats with hippocampal, medial thalamic and septal lesions: implications for studies on hoarding and theories of hippocampal function. Hippocampus 3(3):373–385

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Woodside B, Jans JE (1988) Neuroendocrine basis of thermally regulated maternal responses to young in the rat. Psychoneuroendocrinology 13(1/2):79–98

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Zucker I, Wade GN, Ziegler R (1972) Sexual and hormonal influences on eating, taste preferences, and body weight of hamsters. Physiol Behav 8(1):101–111

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Nuri Yigit, Şakir Ozkurt, Şafak Bulut, and Cumali Özcan for their help with logistics and appropriate permissions. We also thank the farmers of Elbeyli who granted access to their fields. Special thanks to Andreas Müller from the department of physics of Martin-Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, for development and preparation of the FAIS. Funding for the project was provided by a grant from NSF to R.E. Johnston and support from Tubitak to our Turkish collaborators. Travel for S. Larimer and Z. Song was partially funded by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies at Cornell University. The authors thank two anonymous reviewers for their suggestions.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to S. C. Larimer.

Additional information

R. Gattermann: deceased.

About this article

Cite this article

Larimer, S.C., Fritzsche, P., Song, Z. et al. Foraging behavior of golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) in the wild. J Ethol 29, 275–283 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10164-010-0255-8

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10164-010-0255-8

Keywords

  • Foraging
  • Hoarding
  • Time budget analysis
  • Predator avoidance
  • Energy allocation
  • Lactation