Hibernating ground squirrels recycle urine to maintain their muscles

3 months ago

Hibernating animals find it hard to get the nitrogen they request to support muscles – but crushed squirrels person gut microbes that tin interruption down urea to escaped up the nitrogen it contains

Life 27 January 2022

By Alex Wilkins

Hibernating thirteen-lined crushed  squirrel

Hibernating thirteen-lined crushed squirrel

Robert Streiffer

Hibernating crushed squirrels enactment successful signifier by recycling urea, the main compound successful urine, with the assistance of their gut microbes.

When animals hibernate, they participate a authorities of suspended animation, reducing their vigor usage and nutrient intake. But the deficiency of nutrient tin pb to a dearth of nitrogen, an indispensable gathering artifact for establishing and maintaining muscle.

Now, Matthew Regan astatine the University of Montreal, Canada, and his colleagues person discovered however thirteen-lined crushed squirrels (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus) flooded the problem. Their gut microbiomes harvest nitrogen from urea, which is typically a discarded product.

Regan and his squad examined respective groups of crushed squirrels astatine assorted stages of their hibernation cycles, but gave fractional of the animals microbiome-depleting antibiotics. In the untreated squirrels, the researchers tracked nitrogen compounds similar ammonia and glutamine each the mode from the squirrels’ stomachs to muscles and proteins successful their livers. For the depleted squirrels, these compounds weren’t recovered successful important numbers successful their muscles and liver.

“The microbes are important successful each this due to the fact that they person this quality to interruption urea down into its constituent parts, freeing up nitrogen to past beryllium utilized again astatine a clip erstwhile determination is nary caller nitrogen coming into the carnal astatine all,” says Regan.

The urea-eating bacteria besides payment from this process, which could explicate however the mutually beneficial statement came about. “It’s a symbiosis that allows some of them to efficaciously look from hibernation successful bully shape,” helium says.

Humans person besides demonstrated the capableness to salvage nitrogen from urea, though not successful amounts arsenic important arsenic those seen successful squirrels. Understanding however squirrel microbiomes recycle urea could assistance america mitigate musculus nonaccomplishment and nutrient depletion successful a wide assortment of scenarios, including the musculus nonaccomplishment associated with aged property and with abstraction flights successful microgravity.

“We tin look to these animals to larn a batch astir the basal biology of nitrogen recycling,” says Kevin Kohl astatine the University of Pittsburgh successful Pennsylvania. “Some of these things mightiness not beryllium successful humans, but it’s going to springiness america specified a amended knowing of the process. We mightiness not cognize what bits we’re going to propulsion implicit to the quality side, but arsenic we larn more, it’s going to let america to bash that.”

Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.abh2950

Sign up to Wild Wild Life, a escaped monthly newsletter celebrating the diverseness and subject of animals, plants and Earth’s different weird and fantastic inhabitants

More connected these topics: