Behavior of SCN-lesioned chipmunks in natural habitat: a pilot study.


The necessity of a circadian pacemaker, the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN), for survival was evaluated in a population of approximately 65 wild eastern chipmunks, Tamias striatus. The research involved over 3000 h of field-work between May 1995 and October 1997 on a study site at Mountain Lake Biological Station, Virginia. The 28 chipmunks randomly designated as project animals included 10 SCN-lesioned chipmunks, 5 surgical controls (sham-lesioned), and 13 intact controls. Visual observation, live trapping, and radio telemetric tracking were used to assess 6 aspects of survival and reproduction. Upon release after surgery, every animal returned to its den site and was able to maintain its home territory. In warm months from May through October, all chipmunks were active above ground with a strictly day-active pattern. During the remaining cold months, they were normothermic but relatively torpid in their underground dens for extended periods of time. Short-term mortality for the initial 3 months included only a single intact control chipmunk; loss for the extended period from August 1995 to October 1996 was 40% for the SCN-lesioned animals, 0% for surgical controls, and 15.4% for the intact controls. Survival differences were not significant between surgical control and intact control groups but were significant (alpha = .10) between SCN-lesioned and pooled control groups. Annual body weight patterns were similar for both groups. Most individuals in both SCN-lesioned and control groups were reproductively active in the spring and fall breeding periods. Lack of major differences may be attributable to the exceptionally favorable conditions for survival such as a very abundant fall acorn crop, medium population size, and absence of heavy predation.

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@article{DeCoursey1998BehaviorOS, title={Behavior of SCN-lesioned chipmunks in natural habitat: a pilot study.}, author={P J DeCoursey and J R Krulas}, journal={Journal of biological rhythms}, year={1998}, volume={13 3}, pages={229-44} }