Common hamster research

Common hamsters accumulate food stores as external energy reserves for the winter period and show a high flexibility in hibernation patterns. During the active season, female hamsters can produce up to three litters and, consequently, juveniles are born at different times of the season. Under these aspects, common hamsters are an ideal model species to investigate hibernation patterns in relation to the availability and quality of food stores as well as reproductive performance and life history strategies. We conduct field work with an experimental approach and combine this with experiments under constant conditions. At our urban study site, we apply capture-mark-recapture techniques to monitor reproductive output, juvenile emergence and development, and document foraging behaviour as well as hibernation patterns in free-ranging hamsters. In constant condition chambers, we experimentally manipulate food store availability and quality to investigate effects on hibernation performance in hamsters bred in captivity.

Effects of internal and external energy reserves on hibernation patterns in common hamsters

We investigate relationships between the quantity and quality of food hoards on overwintering strategies both in field studies and experimental setups using artificial burrow systems in constant condition chambers. Future research will focus on the mobilization of PUFAs during winter, selective caching experiments and the manipulation of food hoards after caching.  

Funding:  FWF project (2011-2016) and project Hamstermonitoring, VAMED (2014-2017), PI E. Millesi  

Researchers: Eva MillesiCarina Siutz

Life history strategies in common hamsters

A meta-analysis of the field data collected in a period of more than 15 years enables us to address questions regarding life history strategies, like e.g. the consequences of being born early or late in the season or determining effects of high and low maternal effort (lactation duration is highly variable among individual females). Based on these results specific aspects can be tested in field and lab studies.

Researchers: Eva MillesiCarina Siutz

Genetic and epigenetic factors in different hibernating small mammal species

in collaboration with R. Steinborn (Vet Core, Vet. Med Univ. Vienna)

Homology and evolutionary conservation of mitochondrial-derived peptides (MDPs) in different hibernators indicate differences between obligate (fat-storing) and facultative (food-storing) hibernators (Emser et al. in prep.). We persently focus on intraspecies variation of mitochondrial-derived peptide (MDP) sequences in both types of hibernators.

Researchers: Ralf Steinborn, Susanne Huber, Sarah Emser, Daniela Allmer, Eva Millesi