Male short-tailed field voles (Microtus agrestis) build better insulated nests than females

Redman, P., Selman, C. and Speakman, J.R. (1999) Male short-tailed field voles (Microtus agrestis) build better insulated nests than females. Journal of Comparative Physiology B: Biochemical, Systems, and Environmental Physiology, 169(8), pp. 581-587.

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Nest construction is an extremely widespread behaviour. In small endotherms the nest serves primarily to provide insulation, and thereby retard heat loss of the constructor, or its offspring. In arctic and temperate regions many small mammals build nests to protect themselves from low ambient temperatures. We measured the physical properties of nests built by short-tailed field voles Microtus agrestis that were kept in captivity under cold conditions. The most important factor influencing nest insulation was nest wall thickness; however, nests with thick walls also contained more nesting material. Insulative capacity of the nest did not reach an asymptote up to nests containing 20 g of material. Nest insulation was not correlated with resting metabolic rate, body mass or body composition of the vole that constructed the nest. However, nests built by males had greater insulation than those made by females; males also had significantly lower food intake rates when compared to females with nests. No significant difference was observed in either fat mass or whole animal thermal conductance between males and females. Thermal conductance did increase significantly with increasing body mass, although not with resting metabolic rate. Voles with nests for prolonged periods had lower food intakes than voles without nests. The absolute saving averaged 1.9 g and was independent of body mass. This was a 28% saving on intake for a 22-g vole but only an 18% saving for a 40-g individual. When voles had nests for short periods they used the energy they saved to reduce food intake and increase body mass.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Selman, Professor Colin
Authors: Redman, P., Selman, C., and Speakman, J.R.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Journal of Comparative Physiology B: Biochemical, Systems, and Environmental Physiology

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