Photoperiodicity and increasing salinity as environmental cues for reproduction in desert adapted rodents

Elena Bukovetzky, Hagit Schwimmer, Fuad Fares, Abraham Haim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding the ways environmental signals, regulate reproduction and reproductive behavior of desert adapted rodents is a major gap in our knowledge. In this study, we assessed the roles of photoperiod and diet salinity, as signals for reproduction. We challenged desert adapted common spiny mice, Acomys cahirinus, males and females with osmotic stress, by gradually increasing salinity in their water source - from 0.9% to 5% NaCl under short and long days (SD and LD, respectively).Photoperiodicity affected testosterone levels, as under LD-acclimation, levels were significantly (p<0.05) higher than under SD-acclimation. Salinity treatment (ST) significantly reduced SD-acclimated male body mass (Wb) and testis mass (p<0.005; normalized to Wb). ST-LD-females significantly (p<0.005) decreased progesterone levels and the numbers of estrous cycles. A reduction in white adipose tissue (WAT) to an undetectable level was noted in ST-mice of both sexes under both photoperiod regimes. Receptors for vasopressin (VP) and aldosterone were revealed on testes of all male groups and on WAT in control groups.Our results suggest that photoperiod serves as an initial signal while water availability, expressed by increased salinity in the water source, is an ultimate cue for regulation of reproduction, in both sexes of desert-adapted A. cahirinus. We assume that environmental changes also affect behavior, as water seeking behavior by selecting food items, or locomotor activity may change in extreme environment, and thus indirectly affect reproduction and reproductive behavior. The existence of VP and aldosterone receptors in the gonads and WAT suggests the involvement of osmoregulatory hormones in reproductive control of desert adapted rodents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-90
Number of pages7
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank ISF (Israel Academy of Science and Humanities) for financial support through a grant to Abraham Haim and Fuad Fares. We also would like to thank Ms. Lilach Ashkenazi for her help and constructive comments. We thank Ms. Nina Dainov and the staff of the department of Biology at Oranim Campus for their assistance in maintaining the animals. Authors also thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


  • Acomys cahirinus
  • Adaptation to aridity
  • Aldosterone
  • Dietary salinity
  • Osmotic stress
  • Receptors
  • Reproductive status
  • Vasopressin
  • White adipose tissue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Endocrinology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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