I am always amazed by stories of people who hoard animals and find myself mesmerized by the TV series dedicated to this important animal welfare issue. The animals found in these situations are often very ill due to squalid living conditions and lack of adequate food or water.
What I want to focus on, however, is another type of hoarding…food. Probably the best known example are squirrels like the Tamiasciurus hudsonicus, i.e. red squirrel, shown below which hoard food in preparation for the long winter fast:
Photograph: Steve Geer/iStockphoto.com.
Photo Credit: EcoRover
People and hamsters also hoard when they are deprived of food. During fasting, the hormone ghrelin is released by the stomach to increase appetite. When hamsters are injected with this hormone, the animals begin to hoard food. Ghrelin exerts its effects through stimulation of the brain peptides neuropeptide Y and agouti-related protein both of which if administered to hamsters also cause them to hoard food. In contrast, if the animals are given the satiety peptides leptin or cholecystokinin-33, the hoarding behavior is reduced.
Researchers have suggested that because food hoarding increases with obesity in humans, that more research into this area might be beneficial in the treatment of obesity.
Bartness TJ, Keen-Rhinehart E, Dailey MJ, Teubner BJ. Neural and Hormonal Control of Food Hoarding. Am J Physiol. 301(3): R641-R655, 2011.