The effect of the presence or absence of the male, and of decreased ambient temperature (21 degrees C vs. 4 degrees C) on litter survival, pup survival and pup growth was measured from birth through day 18 after birth in Siberian (P. sungorus) and Djungarian (P. campbelli) hamsters. Siberian hamsters were not significantly affected by the experimental manipulations. In contrast, whereas 100% of litters and 95% of pups were successfully raised to weaning at 21 degrees C by paired Djungarian hamsters, survival fell to 47% when the mate was absent and even further, to 32%, when the ambient temperature was lowered. No significant differences in litter size or pup weight at birth were detected between species at the warmer temperature. However, P. sungorus pups gained weight significantly faster through day 12 after birth (while dependence upon the mother for food was absolute) than P. campbelli pups under all experimental conditions. Although the species are closely related, these data show that male Djungarian hamsters are essential to offspring survival under conditions where Siberian hamsters do not require conspecific help. Species differences in metabolism and thermoregulation may account for the differential pup survival.
In Siberian hamsters, transference of photoperiodic information from dam to fetus influences pubertal testicular development of the young when reared either in constant light (LL) or postnatal photoperiods of intermediate length (i.e. 14L:10D). The effects of short photoperiods during gestation can be mimicked by administering melatonin to pregnant females. This experiment examined whether there exists a daily pattern of sensitivity to melatonin when it is administered to pineal-intact pregnant females housed on a long photoperiod. Groups of pregnant and lactating females received melatonin at each hour of the day. The young were not treated with exogenous melatonin. At the approximate time of maturation of their endogenous pineal melatonin rhythm (Day 15), the young were placed in LL to suppress pineal melatonin secretion. Young males were killed at 28 days of age. Afternoon (1200 h-2000 h) and late night (0400 h) injections of melatonin into females caused their male young to develop as though gestation occurred on a short photoperiod. Melatonin injections at other times were ineffective. The daily pattern of effectiveness of exogenous melatonin administration to pregnant females resembles that observed in adult males of this and other hamster species and is consistent with the hypothesis that a daily rhythm in sensitivity to melatonin is involved in the transduction of photoperiodic signals.
Maternal transfer of photoperiodic information in Siberian hamsters. II. The nature of the maternal signal, time of signal transfer, and the effect of the maternal signal on peripubertal reproductive development in the absence of photoperiodic input.
Peripubertal reproductive development of Siberian hamsters is controlled by maternally derived photoperiodic information and the ambient photoperiod present after weaning. Previous experiments suggested that the maternally derived information is transferred during gestation, not during lactation. Development was examined in several photoperiods following manipulation of gestational and lactational photoperiods; development was influenced by the gestational, but not lactational, photoperiod. Second, effects of the gestational photoperiod were observed in young reared in constant light (LL) from Day 15. Depriving the young of ambient photoperiodic information after Day 15 allows a more direct assessment of the signal received from their dams. Finally, melatonin injections to long-day dams, at certain times of day, caused transmission of a short-day signal to young, as evidenced by their development in LL and light-dark cycles. Thus, a maternally derived signal that is dependent on melatonin influences reproductive development of the young during gestation; the maternally directed pattern of development can subsequently be modified by the youngs' own response to ambient photoperiods after weaning.
Siberian hamsters exhibit decreased body weight and fat after initial exposure to short photoperiods and increased body weight and fat after extended short photoperiod exposure. The purpose of the present experiments was to determine if uniform changes in white adipose tissue (WAT) pad weights and lipid metabolism correspond to these short photoperiod-induced changes in body fat. Carcass lipid content and testes and fat pad weights [retroperitoneal WAT (RWAT), epididymal WAT (EWAT), and inguinal and dorsal subcutaneous WAT, respectively] were decreased in male hamsters relative to their long day counterparts after 6 and 12 wk of short-day exposure. Moreover, EWAT and RWAT weight, EWAT specific lipoprotein lipase activity, and specific and total lipogenesis were disproportionately decreased relative to the subcutaneous fat pads. The changes in fat pad weight and metabolism were generally reversed coincident with the return to a long-day-like reproductive status after prolonged short-day exposure (24 and 30 wk). In a less detailed experiment, female Siberian hamsters had decreased body, fat pad, and uterine weights after 6 wk of short-day exposure; however, no fat pad-specific changes in weight were observed. The results of these experiments demonstrate that short-day-exposed male Siberian hamsters may be a useful model for examining mechanisms underlying fat pad-specific responses. In addition, gender appears to influence the pattern of short-day-induced lipid depletion in this species.