Effects of food restriction on body mass, energy metabolism and thermogenesis in a tree shrew (Tupaia belangeri)

In: Animal Biology
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  • 1 Key Laboratory of Ecological Adaptive Evolution and Conservation on Animals-Plants in Southwest Mountain Ecosystem of Yunnan Province Higher Institutes College, School of Life Science, Yunnan Normal University, Kunming, 650500, China
  • | 2 Engineering Research Center of Sustainable Development and Utilization of Biomass Energy, Ministry of Education, Kunming, 650092, China
  • | 3 The Key Laboratory of Biomass Energy and Environmental Biotechnology in Yunnan Province, Kunming, 650092, China
  • | 4 Yunnan Medical Health College, Kunming, 650106, People’s Republic of China
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The metabolic switch hypothesis refers to an ability to adjust metabolic rate. It plays a key role in animals adapted to periods of food shortage, enabling them to “switch down” their resting metabolic rate and to survive and maintain their weight indefinitely on limited rations. The present study investigates the energy strategies of a small mammal in response to food shortages as a function of food restriction, metabolic rate and ambient temperature. We subjected tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri) to food restriction and measured body mass, survival rate, resting metabolic rate, non-shivering thermogenesis and cytochrome c oxidase activity of brown adipose tissue. Cold-exposed animals restricted to 80% of ad libitum food intake had significantly increased resting metabolic rate and non-shivering thermogenesis and decreased body mass and survival rates compared with those kept as control group on the same ood restriction level. Animals classified as having a high resting metabolic rate consumed 30.69% more food than those classified as having a low resting metabolic rate, but showed no differences in body mass or survival when restricted to 80% of ad libitum food intake. These results indicate that tree shrews, known for their relatively high metabolic rates, are sensitive to periods of food restriction, which supports the metabolic switch hypothesis. Our findings are also consistent with the prediction that small mammals with food hoarding behaviors, like tree shrews, may have a lower tolerance for food shortages than non-hoarding species.

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