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Fat Deposition and Seasonal Variation in Body Composition of Arctic Foxes in Svalbard

Pål Prestrud and Kjell Nilssen
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 56, No. 2 (Apr., 1992), pp. 221-233
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
DOI: 10.2307/3808816
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3808816
Page Count: 13
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Fat Deposition and Seasonal Variation in Body Composition of Arctic Foxes in Svalbard
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Abstract

We studied the seasonal variation in body composition of arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) to determine the adaptive significance of fat deposition in this species. Homogenates of 75 minced fox carcasses were analyzed. On a large sample of animals trapped in 1982-89, the thickness of subcutaneous fat was measured, and the amount of fat was indexed subjectively. Fat was deposited both subcutaneously and viscerally in September-October, and it reached a maximum of about 20% of the skinned carcass mass in November. The amount of fat deposited did not decline between November and March of any year. The fat deposits were depleted from March through May, reaching about 6% of the carcass mass by the summer. Fifteen percent of the trapped foxes did not have any subcutaneous or visceral fat deposits in winter. The amount of fat deposited varied among years (P < 0.05) but did not change with age and was independent of sex. Females that reproduced the previous spring were less (P < 0.05) fat in winter than other foxes. Fat deposition in arctic foxes probably is an adaptive response to a combination of food shortage in severe winters or in brief periods during normal winters, increased energy requirements during the reproductive season, and thermoregulation during low temperatures.

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