Maintenance of bone mass and architecture in denning black bears (Ursus americanus)

Authors

  • Connor K. Pardy,

    1. Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
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  • Gregory R. Wohl,

    1. Faculty of Engineering, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
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  • Philip J. Ukrainetz,

    1. Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
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  • Andrew Sawers,

    1. Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
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  • Steven K. Boyd,

    1. Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
    2. Faculty of Engineering, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
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  • Ronald F. Zernicke

    Corresponding author
    1. Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
    2. Faculty of Engineering, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
    3. Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
      All correspondence to: R. F. Zernicke, Faculty of Kinesiology, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4. E-mail: rfz@ucalgary.ca
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All correspondence to: R. F. Zernicke, Faculty of Kinesiology, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4. E-mail: rfz@ucalgary.ca

Abstract

Bone mass is dramatically compromised during periods of weightlessness, inactivity, or bed rest. Animals that hibernate reduce their body temperature, heart rate and metabolic activity, and likewise lower bone turnover activity during their immobile state. Black bears Ursus americanus, however, do not hibernate, but rather overwinter by denning during which they maintain a nearly normal functional heart rate, cardiac output and temperature. Furthermore, markers of bone turnover in black bears are maintained during denning periods. Thus, the purpose of this work was to determine if the denning state of relative immobility in black bears results in changes in bone mass and bone architectural structure. Harvested forelimbs (ulna and radius) were compared between pre- and post-denning black bears using X-ray imaging, dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, and micro-computed tomography to quantify total distal forelimb bone mineral density, cancellous bone mineral density, bone mineral content, bone volume fraction, degree of anisotropy, structure model index, and trabecular thickness. No significant differences in any of the measured parameters were found in comparing radius and ulna from autumn and spring bears in this cross-sectional sample, suggesting that black bears did not experience a significant change in bone mass or architecture during denning. The statistical power for detecting a significant difference (P≤ 0.05) for this sample was 0.8. The specific mechanism by which the preservation of bone was attained may be related to skeletal muscle interaction or circulating systemic hormones.

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