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Skeletal fluorosis in marsupials: A comparison of bone lesions in six species from an Australian industrial site

Clare Death a,⁎, Graeme Coulson b, Uwe Kierdorf c, Horst Kierdorf c, Richard Ploeg a, Simon M. Firestone d,

Ian Dohoo e, Jasmin Hufschmid a

 a Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Melbourne, 250 Princes Hwy, Werribee 3030, Victoria, Australia

b School of BioSciences, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia

c Department of Biology, University of Hildesheim, Universitätsplatz 1, 31141 Hildesheim, Germany

d Asia-Pacific Centre for Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, 3010, Victoria, Australia

e University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown PEI C1A 4P3, Canada


In this study we explored the prevalence, type, location and severity of skeletal lesions in six species of Australian marsupial (Macropus giganteus, Notamacropus rufogriseus, Wallabia bicolor, Phascolarctos cinereus, Trichosurus vulpecula and Pseudocheirus peregrinus) from high and low-fluoride environments. Lesions occurred to varying extents in all species, and lesion distribution varied with biomechanical differences in gait and mastication. Bone fluoride levels increased with severity of periosteal hyperostosis. The mean bone fluoride concentration of individuals lacking hyperostosis (across all species, from both high and low-fluoride environments) was and severe grade hyperostosis, respectively. Multivariable modelling showed that the probability of observing a lesion varied across species, anatomical location, age and bone fluoride concentration (in a non-linear manner). The pathological changes reported in the marsupials are consistent with the range of fluoride-related lesions described in other mammals, and biomechanical differences among the studied marsupial species offer some explanation for the degree of interspecific variability in prevalence, type, anatomical location, and severity of the lesions.