Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) can accurately and nondestructively measure the body composition of small, free-living rodents

Physiol Biochem Zool. 2008 May-Jun;81(3):373-82. doi: 10.1086/587096.


Dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is a nondestructive technique that can potentially measure specific components of whole-body composition in free-living and lab-raised animals. Our aim was to test the ability of DXA to measure the composition of a common arvicoline rodent, the northern red-backed vole (Clethrionomys rutilus). We used a DXA apparatus to obtain measurements of fat mass (FM), lean mass (LM),bone mineral content, bone mineral density, and fat-free mass(FFM) in carcasses of free-living and lab-raised voles. We then used chemical carcass analysis to derive predictive algorithms for actual values of FM, total body water, total protein, total mineral, LM, and FFM. Unexplained error in the equations for all voles grouped collectively ranged from R(2) = 0.82 to R(2) = 0.98. The DXA FM measurement had the highest coefficient of variation, and it was higher for free-living voles than for lab-raised voles. However, FM can be determined by difference with excellent precision by using the FFM equation (R(2) = 0.98). We also derived corrective terms for passive integrated transponder-tagged animals. Thus, DXA is a nonlethal, nondestructive tool capable of precisely and accurately measuring many specific parameters of whole-body composition in small free-living and lab-raised rodents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon*
  • Adipose Tissue / physiology
  • Animals
  • Arvicolinae / physiology*
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Bone Density / physiology