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Physical and Cognitive Performance of the Least Shrew (Cryptotis parva) on a Calcium-Restricted Diet
Albany Medical College, 47 New Scotland Avenue, Albany, NY 12208, USA
Department of Biology, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY 13346, USA
Center for Earth and Environmental Science, State University of New York Plattsburgh, Plattsburgh, NY 12901, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 6 June 2012; in revised form: 28 June 2012 / Accepted: 8 August 2012 / Published: 16 August 2012
Abstract: Geological substrates and air pollution affect the availability of calcium to mammals in many habitats, including the Adirondack Mountain Region (Adirondacks) of the United States. Mammalian insectivores, such as shrews, may be particularly restricted in environments with low calcium. We examined the consequences of calcium restriction on the least shrew (Cryptotis parva) in the laboratory. We maintained one group of shrews (5 F, 5 M) on a mealworm diet with a calcium concentration comparable to beetle larvae collected in the Adirondacks (1.1 ± 0.3 mg/g) and another group (5 F, 3 M) on a mealworm diet with a calcium concentration almost 20 times higher (19.5 ± 5.1 mg/g). Animals were given no access to mineral sources of calcium, such as snail shell or bone. We measured running speed and performance in a complex maze over 10 weeks. Shrews on the high-calcium diet made fewer errors in the maze than shrews on the low-calcium diet (F1,14 = 12.8, p < 0.01). Females made fewer errors than males (F1,14 = 10.6, p < 0.01). Running speeds did not markedly vary between diet groups or sexes, though there was a trend toward faster running by shrews on the high calcium diet (p = 0.087). Shrews in calcium-poor habitats with low availability of mineral sources of calcium may have greater difficulty with cognitive tasks such as navigation and recovery of food hoards.
Keywords: Cryptotis parva; calcium; running speed; spatial memory; acid deposition
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Czajka, J.L.; McCay, T.S.; Garneau, D.E. Physical and Cognitive Performance of the Least Shrew (Cryptotis parva) on a Calcium-Restricted Diet. Behav. Sci. 2012, 2, 172-185.
Czajka JL, McCay TS, Garneau DE. Physical and Cognitive Performance of the Least Shrew (Cryptotis parva) on a Calcium-Restricted Diet. Behavioral Sciences. 2012; 2(3):172-185.
Czajka, Jessica L.; McCay, Timothy S.; Garneau, Danielle E. 2012. "Physical and Cognitive Performance of the Least Shrew (Cryptotis parva) on a Calcium-Restricted Diet." Behav. Sci. 2, no. 3: 172-185.