The white-tailed prairie dog is a spontaneous hibernator that enters art anorexic state followed by torpor in early fall. The black-tailed prairie dog is a facultative hibernator that enters torpor only when deprived of food and water in the winter. The physiological state of hibernation is similar to a Phase II euthermic fast characterized by elevated fat catabolism, increased blood ketone bodies, and conservation of protein tissues. It was hypothesized that these spontaneous and facultative hibernators use fat and protein differently during a fast prior to the hibernation season. Weekly blood and urine samples were taken from both species during a 5-wk period of food and water deprivation. The black-tailed prairie dog lost mass at a greater rate and had a larger daily urine volume and urea, ammonia, and potassium excretion, as well as a higher plasma urea/creatinine ratio, all of which define a greater rare of protein catabolism for this species than for the white-tailed prairie dog. The black-tailed prairie dog, therefore, does not conserve protein to the same extent as the white-tailed prairie dog during a Phase II fast typical of hibernation starvation. Ketone bodies do not appear to regulate protein catabolism directly. But the greater protein catabolism by the black-tailed prairie dog may be related to pH and water balance requirements that are circumvented in the white-tailed prairie dog by engaging in spontaneous torpor. Both species evolved from populations of ancestral prairie clogs that have retained the ability to hibernate spontaneously. It is hypothesized that the black-tailed prairie dogs may not have maintained the capacity for a deep Phase II, protein-conserving state typical of hibernation starvation but keep an active profile throughout winter, relying to a greater extent on protein catabolism in response to selective pressures of greater predation, higher food abundance, and perhaps a need to preserve fat stores for reproduction.
The original publication is available at http://www.jstor.org/stable/30163938