The role of steroid hormones and individual traits in food intake in the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus).


Etho-Physiology Group, Unit of Zoology, Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences, University Autonomous of Madrid, C/Darwin 2, Campus Universitario de Cantoblanco, 28049, Madrid, Spain. [Email]


Availability of food resources affects animal survival and reproduction. Thus, coping with changes in food availability is one of the most crucial behavioural and physiological processes in wildlife. Food intake is a key concept in animal ecology that is directly conditioned by food quality and abundance or diet choice, but may also vary according to individual-related factors (e.g. foraging behaviours, social rank or energy-demanding periods) and the influence of the endocrine system on energy metabolism. Here, we studied food intake in relation to individual characteristics (sex, breeding condition and age) and whether steroid hormones (testosterone and corticosterone metabolites) mediate food intake in wild wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus). Field work was carried out in February-March 2014 in Monte de Valdelatas (Madrid, Spain). Wood mice were live-trapped for 10 consecutive days in four independent plots. Traps were baited with 4 g of toasted corn and food intake was calculated by subtracting the remaining bait found inside traps. Fresh faecal samples from 130 different wood mice were collected and faecal testosterone and corticosterone metabolites (FTM and FCM, respectively) were analysed by enzyme immunoassays. Food intake was higher in females than males, probably due to greater energy requirements. Non-breeders and young individuals also showed a higher food intake. These individuals usually hold a lower social rank which is associated to limited food resources because of dominants; thus, increased food intake may be a result of freely exploit food bait inside traps while avoiding risky competition. In addition, food intake negatively correlated with FTM levels and positively with FCM levels indicating that both hormones have an active role mediating food intake in the wood mouse. Our data suggest that food intake is a function of both individual traits and the endocrine system that accordingly respond throughout different energy-demanding periods.


Energy requirements,Faecal hormones,Food consumption,Inter-individual variation,Small mammals,Social status,