Knut is Dead

Cuddly Cub Polar Bear Knut has died unexpectedly, at the age of four. The cause of death is unknown but speculation abounds.

In memoriam, please remain silent for a moment while we play the Knut Song:

Here is the last video of him, showing his death. This is a bit gruesome. Perhaps, if you know your comparative medicine, you can suggest a possible cause:

It is typical for captive polar bears to live much longer than four years old. The oldest ever in captivity may have been Debby who lived in a zoo in Winnipeg to the age of 42, although there are different opinions on that. More typical is about 15 years or a little longer.

Comments

  1. #1 Amy
    March 20, 2011

    This is going to sound stupid, but I kind of wish you’d had a trigger warning for a video of what could be a seizure resulting in death (by drowning, I assume). I am epileptic and have had several tonic clonic seizures. Of course I can’t assume that’s what happened with Knut, but it looks a little like it, doesn’t it?

    Poor bear. :(

  2. #2 Beth
    March 20, 2011

    With my experience as a vet tech it looks most likely as if he might have had a grand mal seizure but when he fell in the pool he probably drowned. Very sad indeed. :(

  3. #3 Alex Besogonov
    March 20, 2011

    I’ve read this story on a Russian site today. And because Knut and Knuth is written similarly for a few seconds I’ve thought that Donald Knuth is dead :(

  4. #4 daedalus2u
    March 20, 2011

    I hope they do a postmortem and figure out why he died. If it was something congenital, it might be why his mother rejected him.

  5. #5 daedalus2u
    March 20, 2011

    On the other hand, maternal isolation does epigenetically program the brains of rodents to have a reduced concentration of NO producing neurons. It would likely do the same to bears (who are less social than rodents).

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10938444

    I am pretty sure that a high basal NO level would be protective against seizures. The data on this is complicated (because NO physiology is complicated). There are some pro-seizure effects of the nitric oxide synthase enzymes, but I am pretty sure they are artifacts due to NOS being uncoupled and producing superoxide, not NO.

  6. #6 daedalus2u
    March 20, 2011

    On the third hand, in the “wild”, polar bears mostly eat seal blubber, making their diet pretty ketogenic. A ketogenic diet is a very effective anti-epileptic treatment. If Knut had been eating a more western diet, i.e. vegetables and not ketogenic, he may not have been able to withstand it.

    To be effective in preventing epileptic seizures the ketogenic diet has to be very strict. Eating carbohydrate can lead to seizures in half an hour.

  7. #7 Athena
    March 20, 2011

    A neighbor’s cat began to walk in circles like that and have seizures. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor. If Knut had not fallen into the water and drowned, he would have shown progressive cerebellar damage. Poor bear…

  8. #8 TBnSuch
    March 21, 2011

    daedalus2u: Is this a commonly seen in polar bears in captivity?

    Will have to wait for the autopsy for anything definitive, though the siezure/drowning sounds plausible (with my limited knowledge)

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    March 21, 2011

    I just want to say for the record (and I’ll happily, or rather, indifferently, be proven wrong or not) that I don’t buy the epileptic theory at all. I have seen animals do something like this … the seizure like shaking of the hind limbs … when shot with a projectile, though, I admit, not exactly like this. An aneurysm or something along those lines could cause a seizure, but that is not the same thing as epilepsy.

    Don’t forget that he walked in circles for quite some time before the seizure started. That looks to me like he was experiencing pain somewhere in his body. A quadruped going in circles like that is roughly like a human clutching its abdomen or torso and doubling over in pain and/or rocking in pain.

    All this leads me to think massive coronary or something along those lines.

    We’ll know son enough.

  10. #10 Inky
    March 21, 2011

    That was AWFUL to watch.

    It looks like he was having a really bad pain in his abdomen, maybe more on his left side? His hind foot kept trying to scratch it and he kept circling around on the same side.

    The circling and head shaking initially made me think neuro, but his pauses really make me think that he was in immense pain, and his motor skills were pretty deliberate until the last bit.

  11. #11 Rhys
    March 21, 2011

    My dog suffers from Epileptic episodes and this looks remarkably similar to those. I’ve seen my dog exhibit similar behaviour when a seizure is coming. It certainly looks like a seizure at the end there, you can see his jaws open and start to spasm along with his legs before he topples over. I’d say he had a grand mal seizure and drowned. :( poor bugger.

  12. #12 mark
    March 22, 2011

    its barium from chem trails wake up if they send his hair out to check for barium it will be there birds animals of all types will die from barium they lie about spraying look up and wake up it starts with small things and then it will work its way to us soon 1.5 years

  13. #13 TBnSuch
    March 22, 2011

    @Mark: What?

    Does anything make a written statement seem a little more crazy than a complete lack of punctuation? Or is that just me?

  14. #14 astrid
    March 23, 2011

    Controversial story. What I do know of the facts: zookeeper who he grew very close to was forbidden to continue seeing him as Knut got bit older. The bear would howl for him when he smelled him nearby. This of course upset Thomas – who died of a heart attack not long after. Knut met Gianna, she was taken away from him. It seems he was then with 3 females who harassed him. Why was a bear who brought in so much money for a zoo not given more personal consideration.

  15. #15 tides
    March 23, 2011

    It is CERTAINLY an epileptic seizure, in fact a complex partial seizure as typically seen in temporal lobe epilepsy patients. The signs/seizure semiology is EXACTLY what you would expect, incuding the prolonged running in circles, the jerking of the paws and the “rearing and falling” at the end. He was just a bit unlucky to fall and keep seizing in the water :(

  16. #16 ulf_der_freak
    March 23, 2011

    Knut was murdered! Look here (german language)

  17. #17 mark
    March 24, 2011

    Would love to compare IQ’s ??? punctuation ??? maybe all you know.