The effect of aggression I: The increases of metabolic cost and mobilization of fat reserves in male striped hamsters

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Abstract

Aggression can benefit individuals by enhancing their dominance and thereby their ability to acquire and retain resources that increase survival or fitness. Engaging in aggressive behavior costs energy and how animals manage their energy budget to accommodate aggression remains unclear. We conducted three experiments to examine changes in physiological, behavioral and hormonal markers indicative of energy budget in male striped hamsters subject to resident-intruder aggression tests. Body temperature, metabolic rate and serum corticosterone levels significantly increased in resident hamsters immediately after the introduction of intruders. Energy intake did not change, but the metabolic rate of residents increased by 16.1% after 42-days of repeated encounters with intruders. Residents had significantly decreased body fat content and serum thyroxine (T4) levels, and a considerably elevated tri-iodothyronine (T3)/T4 ratio compared to a control group that had no intruders. Attack latency considerably shortened, and the number of attack bouts and total duration of attacks, significantly increased in residents on day 42 compared to day 1 of experiments. These findings may suggest that the conversion of T4 to T3 is involved in defensive aggression behavior. The mobilization of fat reserves resulting in lean body mass is probably common response to the increased metabolic cost of aggression in small mammals. Aggressive behavior, which is important for the successful acquisition and defense of resources, may be of significance for adaptation and evolution of metabolic rate.

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