Bears from the family Ursidae are the only terrestrial mammals that go through gestation, parturition, and lactation during hibernation. This is the 1st study to examine the influence of reproductive status (i.e., nonpregnant, pseudopregnant, or pregnant) on body temperature and blood biochemical profiles in hibernating black bears. Pregnant bears appeared to have higher and more stable body temperatures (37–38°C) than nonpregnant ones (34–36°C) during pregnancy, which was followed by a rapid drop to levels comparable to those of nonpregnant individuals after parturition. In midpregnancy (i.e., January), pregnant bears had higher blood glucose and lower triglyceride concentrations than did nonpregnant ones, whereas blood concentrations of free fatty acids, glycerol, and ketone bodies did not differ significantly. Plasma urea, creatinine, and urea/creatinine levels were significantly lower in pregnant bears than in nonpregnant ones. Pseudopregnant bears showed similar changes in body temperature and blood profiles to pregnant ones, but blood glucose levels in January were significantly lower than those in pregnant bears. These results suggest that pregnant bears maintain homeothermic conditions and supply nutrients to the fetus by stimulating thermogenesis, gluconeogenesis, and urea recycling during hibernation. In addition, these physiological changes appear to be mainly caused by corpus luteum–derived factors (e.g., progesterone) but also were facilitated by placental factors.
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Vol. 94 • No. 3