Is gourmandise stronger than fear? THE SFECA ANNUAL SEMINAR

25 juillet 2017

Action A5:  in the LIFE Alister project is on the relevance of reintroducing European Hamsters into urban periphery zones. This proposal stems from the finding that the species occupies urbanised spaces in several countries, including Austria.

Urban periphery zones have large lawns and gardens and few human activities when the animals come out, which is at night. They present conditions that are conducive to this experiment. On the other hand, these zones have the drawback of being lit up at night. Odile Petit, a researcher at the CNRS (IPHC-DEPE), led a study on the “impact of lighting pollution on the European Hamster’s behaviour and physiology”.

One of the questions this study raised was: does nocturnal lighting impact the way European Hamsters look for food?

Experiments were carried out on eighteen European Hamsters and showed the behavioural responses of individuals submitted to a choice between two sources of appetizing food under two distinct lighting conditions (lighting at -4 or 40 lux – and darkness). Results of the impact of lighting pollution on the behaviour of the European hamster when seeking food were presented during the annual Société Française pour l’Etude du Comportement Animal (SFECA) or French Animal Behaviour Society seminar, held at Gif-sur-Yvette fro 15 to 17 May 2017.

These results prove that hamsters were bothered by strong public lighting. Nonetheless, in the presence of very appetizing food, they no longer avoid the same zones. The consequences of this behaviour study are that recommendations to fit urban periphery zones to reintroduce European Hamsters will target strategies of protection from predation (horticultural structures) rather than cutting down on nocturnal lighting.

These results, on a species known for being a nocturnal one, surprised both students and researchers attending the seminar.


Dupont, S., Guinnefollau, L., Weber, C. & Petit, O. Impact de la pollution lumineuse sur le comportement de fourragement du hamster commun. [Impact of lighting pollution on the behaviour of the European hamster] Communication posted. 47th SFECA seminar, Gif-sur-Yvette, 15-17 May 2017.

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