Journal of Zoology

Notes on the current distribution and the ecology of wild golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus)

R. Gattermann a1c1, P. Fritzsche a1, K. Neumann a1, I. Al-Hussein a1, A. Kayser a1, M. Abiad a2 and R. Yakti a2
a1 Institute of Zoology, University of Halle, 06108 Halle (Saale), Domplatz 4, Germany
a2 University of Aleppo, Aleppo, Syria


Two expeditions were carried out during September 1997 and March 1999 to confirm the current existence of Mesocricetus auratus in northern Syria. Six females and seven males were caught at different sites near Aleppo. One female was pregnant and gave birth to six pups. Altogether, 30 burrows were mapped and the structures of 23 golden hamster burrows investigated. None of the inhabited burrows contained more than one adult. Burrow depths ranged from 36 to 106 cm (mean 65 cm). Their structure was simple, consisting of a single vertical entrance (gravity pipe) that proceeded to a nesting chamber and at least one additional food chamber. The mean length of the entire gallery system measured 200 cm and could extend up to 900 cm. Most burrows were found on agricultural fields preferentially on leguminous cultures. The distribution of golden hamsters is discussed in association with historical data, soil types, geography, climate and human activities. All 19 golden hamsters were transferred to Germany and, together with three wild individuals supplied by the University of Aleppo, form a new breeding stock.

(Accepted August 16 2000)

Key Words: golden hamsters; behaviour; ecology; reproduction; Syria.

c1 All correspondence to: R. Gatterman