Is the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) a hibernator?
Polar bear behavior and biochemistry suggest they may have the ability to hibernate year-round, even though this species is not considered to be a true hibernator. This observation, plus the discovery of a hibernation-induction trigger (HIT) in the blood of black bears, prompted the examination of polar bear blood collected throughout the year for evidence of HIT, and to determine if it displayed opioid activity, as black bear blood does. A bioassay was conducted by injecting summer 13-lined ground squirrels with serum collected from polar bears at different seasons. One group of squirrels was previously implanted with osmotic pumps containing naloxone. The rest had pumps containing saline. Squirrels with saline pumps all hibernated significantly more than those with naloxone, except the group receiving blood from a November polar bear, observed to be highly active and hyperphagic. An in vitro study, using guinea pig ileum, showed that 400 nM morphine inhibited induced contractions and