Biochemical indicators of condition, nutrition and nitrogen excretion in caribou
AbstractUrinary urea nitrogen to creatinine ratios, urinary Nt-methylhistidine to creatinine ratios, serum urea nitrogen concentrations (SUN mg/dl), and serum Nt-methylhistidine concentrations were compared with physical measures of body composition in adult female barren-ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) from the Bathurst and Southampton Island herds during late winter. Body weight and UUC were used to estimate urinary urea nitrogen (urea-N) excretion in free ranging caribou. Only mean UUC reflected differences in fat reserves between populations. None of the biochemical indicators were directly related to body composition. However, elevated UUC were only observed in caribou with depleted fat reserves as demonstrated by low kidney fat index (KFK40) and/or reduced femur marrow fat (FMF<80). UUC greater than 0.25 were indicative of undernourished animals with depleted fat reserves. SUN and UN -MHC showed no clear relationship with fat reserves. The mean estimated daily urea-N excretion for adult female caribou in late winter was extremely low (0.11+0.01SE g urea-N/day, n=76, range=0.011-0.510). The results of my study suggest that UUC can be used to detect nutritionally stressed caribou with depleted fat reserves on lichen winter ranges.
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