Physiological adaptations to prolonged fasting in the overwintering striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis)
Nituch, Larissa A.
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Wintertime physiology of captive striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) in response to cold ambient temperature (T-a) and fasting was investigated with body temperature (T-b) and activity recordings and analyses of hematology, plasma biochemistry and tissue fatty acids (FA). After 105 days of food deprivation, the skunks were in phase II of fasting indicated by the elevated plasma nonesterified FA and glycerol but no accumulation of nitrogen end products. Shorter-chain saturated and monounsaturated FA together with C18-20 n-3 polyunsaturated FA were preferentially mobilized. Individual amino acids responded to fasting in a complex manner, while essential and nonessential amino acid sums remained stable. Increases in hemoglobin and hematocrit suggested dehydration. The activity levels were lower in mid-January-early March, and the activity bouts were mostly displayed between 17:00-23:00 h. Daily torpor was observed in two females with 29 and 46 bouts. The deepest torpor (T-b < 31 degrees C) occurred between dawn and early afternoon and lasted for 3.3 +/- 0.18 h. The average minimum T-b was 292 +/- 0.15 degrees C and the lowest recorded T-b was 25.8 degrees C. There was significant relation between the average 24-h T-b and T-a. Increases in wintertime T-a, as predicted by climate change scenarios, could influence torpor patterns in the species.
Mustonen, Anne-Mari, Jeff Bowman, Carrie Sadowski, Larissa A. Nituch, et al. 2013. "Physiological adaptations to prolonged fasting in the overwintering striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis)." Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A Molecular & Integrative Physiology 166(4): 555-563.