A link between malnutrition early in a moose's life and osteoarthritis as the animal ages has been described by scientists.
"I've long thought that there was a nutritional link to the increase in osteoarthritis in moose on Isle Royale-a wilderness island national park in northwestern Lake Superior-as the population of the animals grew in the 1960s and 1970s," says Michigan Technological University wildlife ecologist Rolf O. Peterson.
Metatarsal leg bones in moose are extremely sensitive to prenatal nutrition.
It is already half grown when the moose is born - to help them run fast from predators.
Peterson and John A.Vucetich; Thomas Drummer a professor of mathematics at Michigan Tech; and colleagues in Minnesota and Ohio found that the moose with the shortest metatarsal bones-indicating poor early nutrition-were the ones more likely to develop osteoarthritis later in their lives.
They also found that the population increase coincided with the highest observed rates of osteoarthritis.
"The apparent link between early nutrition and osteoarthritis indicates that the cause of osteoarthritis is more complex than commonly assumed," said Peterson.
The study is published in Ecology Letters online.