Nav: Home

How bears bulk up ahead of the summer: A study into the Asiatic black bear's spring diet

May 04, 2017

Much like gym enthusiasts, every year Asiatic black bears seem to be on the lookout for protein-rich food ahead of the summer, so that they can bulk up on lean muscle mass in place of the fat tissue formed last year prior to hibernation. This was concluded in a study by Dr. Shino Furusaka, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology and his team, based on direct observations on bears living across an area of about 60 km2 in Japan. The study is published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

In order to determine the bears' food preferences and habits, the scientists followed a large number of animals in the Ashio area of the Ashio-Nikko Mountains in Japan from April to July in both 2013 and 2014. To avoid unnecessary intrusion, they stayed at a distance of at least 200 metres using video cameras with telescopic lenses to document the sightings. Having documented the plant species the bears consumed, the researchers studied their nutritional content and made conclusions about the nutrients needed for the species after hibernation.

While heavily dependent on food availability, generally the bears were noted to prefer food which is high in protein, but poor in fibre -- likely because their stomachs and intestines were unable to efficiently digest the latter. Furthermore, the protein-rich diet ensures that the muscle mass is rebuilt to replace the lost winter fat.

Interestingly, the bears were observed to change their food preferences as spring progressed and that seemed to be linked to the shifts in the nutritional value of the available food.

Starting with their observations at the beginning of April, the scientists did not record any feeding behaviour until the end of the month. As leaf flush was yet to occur, the animals were active and feeding on overwintered grass. However, in early May, the bears began consuming newly emerged leaves, grass and, later in the month, they added flowers to their menu.

A shift in behaviour occurred in the following months. In June and July, the bears were seen to feed mainly on ants, with a small portion of their food intake consisting of grasses, sika deer carcasses and bees. Curiously, when the scientists looked into the nutritional content of the same plants which the animals sought only a few weeks ago, they found out that now they were significantly poorer in protein and richer in fibre.

Another finding showed that the calories in the different items were not related to the choice of food which likely proves that the key factor is none other than the amount of protein, provided that the fibre value is low enough for good digestibility.

Understanding the food preferences and habits of animals, as well as the reasons behind them, is essential for the development and revision of habitat management plans. However, previous knowledge of the feeding behaviour of Asiatic black bears has been based solely on faecal analyses which has not provided sufficient details on which nutritional factors influence the use of particular foods.
-end-
Original source:

Furusaka S, Kozakai C, Nemoto Y, Umemura Y, Naganuma T, Yamazaki K, Koike S (2017) The selection by the Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) of spring plant food items according to their nutritional values. ZooKeys 672: 121-133. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.672.10078

Pensoft Publishers

Related Protein Articles:

Hi-res view of protein complex shows how it breaks up protein tangles
A new, high-resolution view of the structure of Hsp104 (heat shock protein 104), a natural yeast protein nanomachine with six subunits, may show news ways to dismantle harmful protein clumps in disease.
Breaking the protein-DNA bond
A new Northwestern University study finds that unbound proteins in a cell break up protein-DNA bonds as they compete for the single-binding site.
FASEB Science Research Conference: Protein Kinases and Protein Phosphorylation
This conference focuses on the biology of protein kinases and phosphorylation signaling.
Largest resource of human protein-protein interactions can help interpret genomic data
An international research team has developed the largest database of protein-to-protein interaction networks, a resource that can illuminate how numerous disease-associated genes contribute to disease development and progression.
STAT2: Much more than an antiviral protein
A protein known for guarding against viral infections leads a double life, new research shows, and can interfere with cell growth and the defense against parasites.
A protein makes the difference
It is well-established knowledge that blood vessels foster the growth of tumors.
Nuclear protein causes neuroblastoma to become more aggressive
Aggressive forms of neuroblastoma contain a specific protein in their cells' nuclei that is not found in the nuclei of more benign forms of the cancer, and the discovery, made through research from the University of Rochester Medical Center, could lead to new forms of targeted therapy.
How a protein could become the next big sweetener
High-fructose corn syrup and sugar are on the outs with calorie-wary consumers.
High animal protein intake associated with higher, plant protein with lower mortality rate
The largest study to examine the effects of different sources of dietary protein found that a high intake of proteins from animal sources -- particularly processed and unprocessed red meats -- was associated with a higher mortality rate, while a high intake of protein from plant sources was associated with a lower risk of death.
Protein in, ammonia out
A recent study has compiled and analyzed data from 25 previous studies.

Related Protein Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...