Remarkably, American black bears (Ursus americanus) are capable of varying their heart ratesto coincide with their breathing, creating pauses of 30 s or more, yet they do not appear to suffer from embolic events. We evaluated some features of the clotting cascade of black bears, providing novel insights into the underlying mechanisms they evoke for embolic protection during hibernation. We measured activated clotting time, prothrombin time and activated partial thromboplastin time during early denning (December), late denning (March) and summer (August). Activated clotting time during early hibernation was ∼3 times longer than that observed among non-hibernating animals. Clotting time was reduced later in hibernation, when bears were within ∼1 month of emerging from dens. Prothrombin time was similar for each seasonal time point, whereas activated partial thromboplastin time was highest during early denning and decreased during late denning and summer. We also examined D-dimer concentration to assess whether the bears were likely to have experienced embolic events. None of the non-parturient bears exceeded a D-dimer concentration of 250 ng ml-1 (considered the clinical threshold for embolism in mammals). Our findings suggest there is unique expression of the clotting cascade in American black bears during hibernation, in which extrinsic pathways are maintained but intrinsic pathways are suppressed. This was evaluated by a significant difference between the activated clotting time and activated partial thromboplastin time during the denning and non-denning periods. These changes are likely adaptive, to avoid clotting events during states of immobilization and/or periods of asystole. However, an intact extrinsic pathway allows for healing of external injuries and/or foreign body responses.
- Clotting cascade
- Hibernation physiology