The Tensile Strength of Black Bear (Ursus americanus) Cortical Bone is not Compromised with Aging Despite Annual Periods of Hibernation

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Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics; Department of Biomedical Engineering; Department of Mathematical Sciences


Black bears (Ursus americanus) may not develop disuse osteoporosis during long periods of disuse (i.e. hibernation) because they may be able to maintain bone formation. Previously, we found that cortical bone bending strength was not compromised with age in black bears tibias, despite annual periods of disuse. Here we showed that cortical bone tensile strength (166-198 MPa) also does not decrease with age (2-14 years) in black bear tibias. There were also no significant age-related changes in cortical bone porosity in black bear tibias. It is likely that the ability of black bears to maintain bone formation during hibernation keeps bone porosity low (2.3-8.6%) with aging, notwithstanding annual periods of disuse. This low porosity likely preserves ultimate stress with aging. Female bears give birth and nurse during hibernation; however, we found no significant differences between male and female tensile material properties, mineral content, or porosity. Our findings support the idea that black bears, which hibernate 5-7 months annually, have evolved biological mechanisms to mitigate the adverse effects of disuse on bone porosity and strength.

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© 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Journal of Biomechanics