Feeding patterns of S. crassicaudata (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae): Role of gender, photoperiod, and fat stores

Perdita J. Hope, Gary A. Wittert, Michael Horowitz, John E. Morley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Little is known about feeding regulation in marsupials. Sminthopsis crassicaudata is a small nocturnal marsupial, whose tail contains ~25% total body fat. We have characterized the effect of gender, photoperiod, food deprivation, and tail removal (lipectomy) on food intake in S. crassicaudata. Males and females maintained in captivity on long-day (LD, 16:8-h light-dark cycle) and short-day (SD, 9:15-h light-dark cycle) light regimens were studied. Feeding patterns under LD and SD photoperiods were initially measured under conditions of ad libitum food supply and then in groups of animals exposed to 24- and 36-h periods of food deprivation. Feeding occurred predominantly in the dark. Females maintained on SD photoperiods for 5 wk ate less (P < 0.005) than females on LD or males on either SD or LD, but this reduction in food intake was not associated with a decrease either in body weight or tail width. After both 24-and 36-h lasts, total food intake in the subsequent 24 h increased (P < 0.001) up to 100% in all groups, with no gender or photoperiod effect. SD females, however, ate less (P < 0.05) than LD females in the first 6 h after refeeding. Tail width decreased (P < 0.05) in all groups of animals after the 36-h fast but only in LD animals after the 24-h fast (P < 0.05). Body weight decreased similarly in all groups of animals after fasting. The effect of tail removal was studied in LD males. The procedure, which was well tolerated, resulted in an initial decrease in body weight (P < 0.005), which recovered within 3 wk. On day 45 in the animals whose tails were removed, body fat was ~30% greater than body fat of controls (P < 0.02). No significant increase in food intake occurred after tail removal. These data demonstrate in Sminthopsis crassicaudata 1) a photoperiod and gender-dependent effect on food intake, 2) the ability to regulate the amount and distribution of total body fat, and 3) a dissociation between the regulation of food intake and changes in body fat stores, which suggest alterations in energy expenditure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R78-R83
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number1 41-1
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • adipose tissue
  • food intake
  • marsupial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

Cite this