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Open Access Relationship between Sunlight Exposure, Housing Condition, and Serum Vitamin D and Related Physiologic Biomarker Levels in Captive Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

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In primates, the primary source of vitamin D is synthesis in the skin through sun exposure. Decreased sun exposure may lead to vitamin D deficiency and consequently other health issues. In laboratory, sanctuary, and zoo settings, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) may be housed indoors for prolonged periods of time without regular exposure to unfiltered sunlight. However, little research has examined the relationship between housing conditions and vitamin D serum levels in captive chimpanzees. In this study, we retrospectively compared serum levels of total vitamin D, calcium, ionic calcium, phosphorous, albumin, and alkaline phosphatase in 18 female and 12 male chimpanzees as they cycled between indoor-only and indoor–outdoor enclosures. Total vitamin D was significantly lower and alkaline phosphatase significantly higher when subjects were in the indoor-only enclosures compared with when they had regular access to outdoor enclosures. A vitamin D effect occurred only in young and prime-adult animals. Changes were significant in female but not in male chimpanzees. Calcium, ionic calcium, phosphorus, and albumin did not differ between indoor-only and indoor-outdoor enclosures. However, female chimpanzees exhibited significantly lower calcium and phosphorous levels while in the indoor-only enclosures. These results suggest that adult captive chimpanzees experience vitamin D deficiency when housed without regular access to unfiltered sunlight and that these effects may be more acute for adult female animals.

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Publication date: August 1, 2007

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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