With the aim of describing the effect of severe feed restriction on the liver histology, morphometrical analysis of liver sections of 10 alpine chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) was performed. Five animals were found dead during the winter season 1995–96 and five were collected during the hunting season 1996. Hepatocyte nuclear size was measured in squared micrometers using Image-Pro Plus software. A significant decrease in the mean size of the nuclei of hepatocytes in emaciated chamois, as compared to harvested animals was observed. The reduction in cell nuclear size may be linked to the mobilization of body protein to prevent ketosis during severe food restriction, as hypothesized for other wild ungulates. The change in hepatocyte size may be the consequence of a strategy to minimize energy expenditure and may be proposed as an index of metabolic stress during winter undernutrition.
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Vol. 35 • No. 4