Is the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) a hibernator? Continued studies on opioids and hibernation

Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
By: , and 



Polar bear behavior and biochemistry suggest they may have the ability to hibernate year-round, even though this species is not considered to be a true hibernator. This observation, plus the discovery of a hibernation-induced trigger (HIT) in the blood of black bears, prompted the examination of polar bear blood collected thoughout the year for evidence ofr HIT, and to determine if it displayed opioid activity, as black bear blood does. A bioassay was conducted by injected summer 13-lined ground squirrels with serum collected from polar bears at different seasons. One group of squirrels was previously implanted with osmotic pumps containing naloxone. The rest had pumps containing saline. Squirrels with saline pumps all hibernated significantly more than those with naloxone, except the group receiving blood from a November polar bear, observed to be highly active and hyperphagic. An in vitro study, using guinea pig ileum, showed that 400 nM morphine inhibited induced contractions and 100 nM naloxone reversed the inhibition. Ten mg of winter polar bear serum albumin fraction (to which HIT binds in ground squirrels and woodchucks) had a similar inhibiting effect, but naloxone, even at 4,000 nM, didn't reverse it. It is concluded that polar bear contains HIT, that it has an opioid effct, but may not itself be an opioid.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Is the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) a hibernator? Continued studies on opioids and hibernation
Series title Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
DOI 10.1016/0091-3057(90)90311-5
Volume 35
Issue 3
Year Published 1990
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 7 p.
First page 705
Last page 711
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