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Ponganis, PJ, Kreutzer U, Stockard TK, Lin PC, Sailasuta N, Tran TK, Hurd R, Jue T.  2008.  Blood flow and metabolic regulation in seal muscle during apnea. Journal of Experimental Biology. 211:3323-3332.   10.1242/jeb.018887   AbstractWebsite

In order to examine myoglobin (Mb) function and metabolic responses of seal muscle during progressive ischemia and hypoxemia, Mb saturation and high-energy phosphate levels were monitored with NMR spectroscopy during sleep apnea in elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris). Muscle blood flow (MBF) was measured with laser-Doppler flowmetry (LDF). During six, spontaneous, 8-12 min apneas of an unrestrained juvenile seal, apneic MBF decreased to 46 +/- 10% of the mean eupneic MBF. By the end of apnea, MBF reached 31 +/- 8% of the eupneic value. The t(1/2) for 90% decline in apneic MBF was 1.9 +/- 1.2 min. The initial post-apneic peak in MBF occurred within 0.20 +/- 0.04 min after the start of eupnea. NMR measurements revealed that Mb desaturated rapidly from its eupenic resting level to a lower steady state value within 4 min after the onset of apnea at rates between 1.7 +/- 1.0 and 3.8 +/- 1.5% min(-1), which corresponded to a muscle O(2) depletion rate of 1-2.3 ml O(2)kg(-1) min(-1). High-energy phosphate levels did not change with apnea. During the transition from apnea to eupnea, Mb resaturated to 95% of its resting level within the first minute. Despite the high Mb concentration in seal muscle, experiments detected Mb diffusing with a translational diffusion coefficient of 4.5 x 10(-7) cm(2) s(-1), consistent with the value observed in rat myocardium. Equipoise P(O2) analysis revealed that Mb is the predominant intracellular O(2) transporter in elephant seals during eupnea and apnea.

Stockard, TK, Levenson DH, Berg L, Fransioli JR, Baranov EA, Ponganis PJ.  2007.  Blood oxygen depletion during rest-associated apneas of northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris). Journal of Experimental Biology. 210:2607-2617.   10.1242/jeb.008078   AbstractWebsite

Blood gases (P-O2, P-CO2, pH), oxygen content, hematocrit and hemoglobin concentration were measured during rest-associated apneas of nine juvenile northern elephant seals. In conjunction with blood volume determinations, these data were used to determine total blood oxygen stores, the rate and magnitude of blood O-2 depletion, the contribution of the blood O-2 store to apneic metabolic rate, and the egree of hypoxemia that occurs during these breath-holds. Mean body mass was 66 +/- 9.7 kg (+/- s.d.); blood volume was 196 +/- 20 ml kg(-1); and hemoglobin concentration was 23.5 +/- 1.5 g dl(-1). Rest apneas ranged in duration from 3.1 to 10.9 min. Arterial P-O2 declined exponentially during apnea, ranging between a maximum of 108 mmHg and a minimum of 18 mmHg after a 9.1 min breath-hold. Venous P-O2 values were indistinguishable from arterial values after the first minute of apnea; the lowest venous P-O2 recorded was 15 mmHg after a 7.8 min apnea. O-2 contents were also similar between the arterial and venous systems, declining linearly at rates of 2.3 and 2.0 ml O-2 dl(-1) min (-1), respectively, from mean initial values of 27.2 and 26.0 ml O-2 dl(-1). These blood O-2 depletion rates are approximately twice the reported values during forced submersion and are consistent with maintenance of previously measured high cardiac outputs during rest-associated breath-holds. During a typical 7-min apnea, seals consumed, on average, 56% of the initial blood O-2 store of 52 ml O-2 kg(-1); this contributed 4.2 ml O-2 kg(-1) min(-1) to total body metabolic rate during the breath-hold. Extreme hypoxemic tolerance in these seals was demonstrated by arterial P-O2 values during late apnea that were less than human thresholds for shallow-water blackout. Despite such low P-O2s, there was no evidence of significant anaerobic metabolism, as changes in blood pH were minimal and attributable to increased P-CO2. These findings and the previously reported lack of lactate accumulation during these breath- holds are consistent with the maintenance of aerobic metabolism even at low oxygen tensions during rest- associated apneas. Such hypoxemic tolerance is necessary in order to allow dissociation of O-2 from hemoglobin and provide effective utilization of the blood O-2 store.

Ponganis, PJ, Stockard TK, Levenson DH, Berg L, Baranov EA.  2006.  Cardiac output and muscle blood flow during rest-associated apneas of elephant seals. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology a-Molecular & Integrative Physiology. 144:105-111.   10.1016/j.cbpa.2006.02.009   AbstractWebsite

In order to evaluate hemodynamics and blood flow during rest-associated apnea in young elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris), cardiac outputs (CO, thermodilution), heart rates (HR), and muscle blood flow (MBF, laser Doppler flowmetry) were measured.. Mean apneic COs and HRs of three seals were 46% and 39% less than eupneic values, respectively (2.1 +/- 0.3 vs. 4.0 +/- 0.1 mL kg(-1) s(-1), and 54 6 vs. 89 14 beats min(-1)). The mean apneic stroke volume (SV) was not significantly different from the eupneic value (2.3 +/- 0.2 vs. 2.7 +/- 0.5 mL kg(-1)). Mean apneic MBF of three seals was 51% of the eupneic value. The decline in MBF during apnea was gradual, and variable in both rate and magnitude. In contrast to values previously documented in seals during forced submersions (FS), CO and SV during rest-associated apneas were maintained at levels characteristic of previously published values in similarly-sized terrestrial mammals at rest. Apneic COs of such magnitude and incomplete muscle ischemia during the apnea suggest that (1) most organs are not ischemic during rest-associated apneas, (2) the blood O-2 depletion rate is greater during rest-associated apneas than during FS, and (3) the blood O-2 store is not completely isolated from muscle during rest-associated apneas. (c) 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Crognale, MA, Levenson DH, Ponganis PJ, Deegan JF, Jacobs GH.  1998.  Cone spectral sensitivity in the harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) and implications for color vision. Canadian Journal of Zoology-Revue Canadienne De Zoologie. 76:2114-2118.   10.1139/cjz-76-11-2114   AbstractWebsite

The retinas of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) contain two morphologically distinct photoreceptor types: rods and cones. The spectral properties of the cones have not been previously studied. The spectral sensitivities of the cones of harbor seals were measured using a retinal gross potential technique, flicker photometric electroretinography. We found a cone spectral sensitivity curve with a peak at about 510 nm. The shape of the spectral sensitivity curve remained invariant despite large changes in chromatic adaptation, implying that harbor seals have only a single cone photopigment. This means that harbor seals must lack color vision at photopic light levels. Any color discrimination in this species would have to be based on combined input from rods and cones and thus restricted to mesopic light levels. The spectral sensitivity of the cone pigment in the harbor seal is shifted to shorter wavelengths than those of terrestrial carnivores, consistent with adaptation to the aquatic photic environment.

Ponganis, PJ, van Dam RP, Knower T, Levenson DH, Ponganis KV.  2004.  Deep dives and aortic temperatures of emperor penguins: new directions for bio-logging at the isolated dive hole. Memoirs of National Institute of Polar Research Special Issue. 58:155-161. AbstractWebsite
Kooyman, GL, Ponganis PJ, Howard RS.  1999.  Diving Animals. The lung at depth. ( Lundgren CEG, Miller JN, Eds.).:587-620., New York: Marcel Dekker Abstract
Blight, LK, Ainley DG, Ackley SF, Ballard G, Ballerini T, Brownell RL, Cheng CHC, Chiantore M, Costa D, Coulter MC, Dayton P, Devries AL, Dunbar R, Earle S, Eastman JT, Emslie SD, Evans CW, Garrott RA, Kim S, Kooyman G, Lescroel A, Lizotte M, Massaro M, Olmastroni S, Ponganis PJ, Russell J, Siniff DB, Smith WO, Stewart BS, Stirling I, Willis J, Wilson P, Woehler EJ.  2010.  Fishing for data in the Ross Sea. Science. 330:1316-1316.   10.1126/science.330.6009.1316   AbstractWebsite
Ancel, A, Kooyman GL, Ponganis PJ, Gendner JP, Lignon J, Mestre X, Huin N, Thorson PH, Robisson P, Lemaho Y.  1992.  Foraging behaviour of emperor penguins as a resource detector in winter and summer. Nature. 360:336-339.   10.1038/360336a0   AbstractWebsite

The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri), which feeds only at sea, is restricted to the higher latitudes of the antarctic sea-ice habitat1-3. It breeds on the winter fast ice when temperatures are -30-degrees-C and high winds are frequent3. Assuming entirely the task of incubating the single egg, the male fasts for about 120 days in the most severe conditions. When it is relieved by the female around hatching time, the distance between the colony and the open sea may be 100 km or more4,5, but where emperors go to forage at that time or during the summer is unknown. The polynias are areas of open water in sea-ice and during winter, with the under-ice habitats at any time of the year, they are among the most difficult of all Antarctic areas to sample. Here we monitor by satellite the routes taken by emperor penguins for foraging and compare them with satellite images of sea-ice. Winter birds walking over fast ice travelled up to 296 km to feed in polynias, whereas those swimming in light pack-ice travelled as far as 895 km from the breeding colony. One record of diving showed that although most dives are to mid-water depths, some are near the bottom. Obtaining such detailed information on foraging in emperor penguins means that this bird now offers a unique opportunity to investigate the Antarctic sea-ice habitat.

Cristofari, R, Bertorelle G, Ancel A, Benazzo A, Lemaho Y, Ponganis PJ, Stenseth NC, Trathan PN, Whittington JD, Zanetti E, Zitterbart DP, Le Bohec C, Trucchi E.  2016.  Full circumpolar migration ensures evolutionary unity in the Emperor penguin. Nature Communications. 7   10.1038/ncomms11842   AbstractWebsite

Defining reliable demographic models is essential to understand the threats of ongoing environmental change. Yet, in the most remote and threatened areas, models are often based on the survey of a single population, assuming stationarity and independence in population responses. This is the case for the Emperor penguin Aptenodytes forsteri, a flagship Antarctic species that may be at high risk continent-wide before 2100. Here, using genome-wide data from the whole Antarctic continent, we reveal that this top-predator is organized as one single global population with a shared demography since the late Quaternary. We refute the view of the local population as a relevant demographic unit, and highlight that (i) robust extinction risk estimations are only possible by including dispersal rates and (ii) colony-scaled population size is rather indicative of local stochastic events, whereas the species' response to global environmental change is likely to follow a shared evolutionary trajectory.

Kooyman, GL, Ponganis PJ, Castellini MA, Ponganis EP, Ponganis KV, Thorson PH, Eckert SA, Lemaho Y.  1992.  Heart rates and swim speeds of Emperor penguins diving under sea ice. Journal of Experimental Biology. 165:161-180. AbstractWebsite

Heart rate during overnight rest and while diving were recorded from five emperor penguins with a microprocessor-controlled submersible recorder. Heart rate, cardiac output and stroke volume were also measured in two resting emperor penguins using standard electrocardiography and thermodilution measurements. Swim velocities from eight birds were obtained with the submersible recorder. The resting average of the mean heart rates was 72 beats min-1. Diving heart rates were about 15% lower than resting rates. Cardiac outputs of 1.9-2.9 ml kg-1 s-1 and stroke volumes of 1.6-2.7 ml kg-1 were similar to values recorded from mammals of the same body mass. Swim velocities averaged 3 m s-1. The swim speeds and heart rates suggest that muscle O2 depletion must occur frequently: therefore, many dives require a significant energy contribution from anaerobic glycolysis.

Zenteno-Savin, T, Leger JS, Ponganis PJ.  2010.  Hypoxemic and ischemic tolerance in emperor penguins. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology C-Toxicology & Pharmacology. 152:18-23.   10.1016/j.cbpc.2010.02.007   AbstractWebsite

Oxygen store depletion and a diving bradycardia in emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) expose tissues to critical levels of hypoxemia and ischemia. To assess the prevention of re-perfusion injury and reactive oxygen species (ROS) damage in emperor penguins, superoxide radical production, lipid peroxidation (thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS)), and antioxidant enzyme activity profiles in biopsy samples from muscle and liver were determined and compared to those in the chicken and 8 species of flighted marine birds (non-divers and plunge divers). In muscle of emperor penguins, superoxide production and TBARS levels were not distinctly different from those in the other species; among the antioxidant enzymes, catalase (CAT) and glutathione-S-transferase (GST) activities were significantly elevated above all species. In the liver of emperor penguins, TBARS levels were not significantly different from other species; only CAT activity was significantly elevated, although GST and glutathione peroxidase (GPX) activities were 2-3 times higher than those in other species. The potential for ROS formation and lipid peroxidation is not reduced in the pectoral muscle or liver of the emperor penguin. Scavenging of hydrogen peroxide by CAT and the conjugation of glutathione with reactive intermediates and peroxides by GST and GPX appear to be important in the prevention of ROS damage and re-perfusion injury in these birds. (C) 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Ponganis, PJ, Stockard TK, Levenson DH, Berg L, Baranov EA.  2006.  Intravascular pressure profiles in elephant seals: Hypotheses on the caval sphincter, extradural vein and venous return to the heart. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology a-Molecular & Integrative Physiology. 145:123-130.   10.1016/j.cbpa.2006.05.012   AbstractWebsite

In order to evaluate bemodynamics in the complex vascular system of phocid seals, intravascular pressure profiles were measured during periods of rest-associated apnea in young elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris). There were no significant differences between apneic and eupneic mean arterial pressures. During apnea, venous pressure profiles (pulmonary artery, thoracic portion of the vena cava (thoracic vena cava), extradural vein, and hepatic sinus) demonstrated only minor, transient fluctuations. During eupnea, all venous pressure profiles were dominated by respiratory fluctuations. During inspiration, pressures in the thoracic vena cava and extradural vein decreased -9 to -21 mm Hg, and -9 to -17 mm Hg, respectively. In contrast, hepatic sinus pressure increased 2-6 mm Hg during inspiration. Nearly constant hepatic sinus and intrathoracic vascular pressure profiles during the breath-hold period are consistent with incomplete constriction of the caval sphincter during these rest-associated apneas. During eupnea, negative inspiratory intravascular pressures in the chest ("the respiratory pump") should augment venous return via both the venae cavae and the extradural. vein. It is hypothesized that, in addition to the venae cavae, the prominent para-caval venous system of phocid seals (i.e., the extradural vein) is necessary to allow adequate venous return for maintenance of high cardiac outputs and blood pressure during eupnea. (c) 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Ponganis, PJ, Kooyman GL, Van Dam R, Lemaho Y.  1999.  Physiological responses of king penguins during simulated diving to 136 m depth. Journal of Experimental Biology. 202:2819-2822. AbstractWebsite

To evaluate blood N-2 uptake and the role of the respiratory volume (air sacs/lungs) as a N-2 and O-2 reservoir in deep-diving penguins, diving respiratory volume (V-DR), heart rate (f(H)), venous P-N2, blood volume (V-b) and hemoglobin (Hb) concentration were measured in king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) during forced submersions and compressions equivalent to depths up to 136 m, V-DR was 69+/-18 ml kg(-1) (mean +/- S.D.) in 62 submersions ranging from 4.4 atmospheres absolute (ATA; 1 ATA=101 kPa) (34 m) to 14.6 ATA (136 m), Submersion f(H) averaged 30+/-7 beats min(-1) (N=18), approximately 20% of pre- and post-submersion values. Venous P-N2 values during and after submersions as deep as 11.2 ATA (102 m) were all less than 2.8 atmospheres N-2 (283 kPa) above ambient pressure, a previously measured threshold for symptomatic bubble formation. Mean V-b was 83+/-8 ml kg(-1) (N=6); [Hb] was 17.6+/-0.7 g dl(-1) (N=7), On a mass-specific basis, mean V-DR, and therefore total available N-2, is 41% of that in shallow-diving penguin species. Total body O-2 stores, calculated from measured V-DR, V-b, [Hb], muscle mass and myoglobin concentration, are 45 ml kg(-1), with 23 % in the respiratory system. This small respiratory fraction in comparison with that in shallow-diving penguins suggests a lesser reliance on the respiratory oxygen store for extended breath-holding and also a reduced uptake of nitrogen at depth.

Ponganis, PJ, Van Dam RP, Levenson DH, Knower T, Ponganis KV, Marshall G.  2003.  Regional heterothermy and conservation of core temperature in emperor penguins diving under sea ice. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology a-Molecular & Integrative Physiology. 135:477-487.   10.1016/s1095-6433(03)00133-8   AbstractWebsite

Temperatures were recorded at several body sites in emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) diving at an isolated dive hole in order to document temperature profiles during diving and to evaluate the role of hypothermia in this well-studied model of penguin diving physiology. Grand mean temperatures (+/-S.E.) in central body sites during dives were: stomach: 37.1 +/- 0.2 degreesC (n = 101 dives in five birds), pectoral muscle: 37.8 +/- 0.1 degreesC (n = 71 dives in three birds) and axillary/brachial veins: 37.9 +/- 0.1 degreesC (n = 97 dives in three birds). Mean diving temperature and duration correlated negatively at only one site in one bird (femoral vein, r = -0.59, P < 0.05; range < 1 degreesC). In contrast, grand mean temperatures in the wing vein, foot vein and lumbar subcutaneous tissue during dives were 7.6 +/- 0.7 degreesC (n = 157 dives in three birds), 20.2 +/- 1.2 degreesC (n = 69 in three birds) and 35.2 +/- 0.2 degreesC (n = 261 in six birds), respectively. Mean limb temperature during dives negatively correlated with diving duration in all six birds (r = -0.29 to -0.60, P < 0.05). In two of six birds, mean diving subcutaneous temperature negatively correlated with diving duration (r = -0.49 and -0.78, P < 0.05). Sub-feather temperatures decreased from 31 to 35 T during rest periods to a grand mean of 15.0 +/- 0.7 degreesC during 68 dives of three birds; mean diving temperature and duration correlated negatively in one bird (r = -0.42, P < 0.05). In general, pectoral, deep venous and even stomach temperatures during diving reflected previously measured vena caval temperatures of 37-39 degreesC more closely than the anterior abdominal temperatures (19-30 degreesC) recently recorded in diving emperors. Although prey ingestion can result in cooling in the stomach, these findings and the lack of negative correlations between internal temperatures and diving duration do not support a role for hypothermia-induced metabolic suppression of the abdominal organs as a mechanism of extension of aerobic dive time in emperor penguins diving at the isolated dive hole. Such high temperatures within the body and the observed decreases in limb, anterior abdomen, subcutaneous and sub-feather temperatures are consistent with preservation of core temperature and cooling of an outer body shell secondary to peripheral vasoconstriction, decreased insulation of the feather layer, and conductive/convective heat loss to the water environment during the diving of these emperor penguins. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Inc. All fights reserved.

Van Dam, RP, Ponganis PJ, Ponganis KV, Levenson DH, Marshall G.  2002.  Stroke frequencies of emperor penguins diving under sea ice. Journal of Experimental Biology. 205:3769-3774. AbstractWebsite

During diving, intermittent swim stroke patterns, ranging from burst/coast locomotion to prolonged gliding, represent potential energy conservation mechanisms that could extend the duration of aerobic metabolism and, hence, increase the aerobic dive limit (ADL, dive duration associated with onset of lactate accumulation). A 5.6 min ADL for emperor penguins had been previously determined with lactate measurements after dives of <50 m depth. In order to assess locomotory patterns during such dives, longitudinal acceleration was measured with an attached accelerometer in 44 dives of seven adult birds diving from an isolated dive hole in the sea ice of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Detection of wing strokes in processed accelerometer data was verified in selected birds with analysis of simultaneous Crittercam underwater video footage. Mean dive duration of birds equipped with the accelerometer and a time-depth recorder (TDR) was 5.7+/-2.2 min; 48% of these dives were greater than the measured 5.6 min ADL (ADL(M)). Highest stroke frequencies (0.92+/-0.31Hz, N=981) occurred during the initial descent to 12 m depth. Swimming effort was reduced to a mean stroke frequency <0.70 Hz during other phases of the dive (while traveling below 12 m depth, during foraging ascents/descents to and from the sub-ice surface, and during final ascents to exit). The longest stroke interval (8.6 s) occurred during a feeding excursion to the undersurface of the ice. In dives >ADL(M), mean stroke frequency during travel segments was significantly less than that in dives 10 s) periods of prolonged gliding during these shallow (<60 m) foraging dives. However, a stroke/glide pattern was evident with more than 50% of strokes associated with a stroke interval >1.6 s, and with lower stroke frequency associated with increased dive duration.

Ponganis, PJ, Van Dam RP, Marshall G, Knower T, Levenson DH.  2000.  Sub-ice foraging behavior of emperor penguins. Journal of Experimental Biology. 203:3275-3278. AbstractWebsite

Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) were equipped with a remote underwater video camera, the Crittercam, to evaluate sub-ice foraging behavior while the birds dived from an isolated dive hole. Three birds dived and foraged successfully for Ih periods after being trained to wear and to dive with a harness for camera attachment. Video and depth profile recordings revealed that emperor penguins travel at shallow depths (<50 m), ascend to the undersurface of the ice to feed on fish, and descend back to depth to return to the exit hole. Although the mean durations of dives of individual birds with the Crittercam were 21-35 % shorter than the diving durations of these same birds without the camera, the dive profiles in both situations were similar, thus demonstrating a similar foraging strategy in birds diving without the camera. Despite shorter diving durations with the camera, the penguins were still successful at prey capture in 80 % of 91 dives greater than 1 min in duration. Prey included the sub-ice fish Pagothenia borchgrevinki. Hunting ascents (from depth to within 5 m of the surface) occurred in 85 % of dives, ranged from zero to three per dive, and were associated with successful prey capture in 77 % of 128 ascents, Occasionally, several fish were captured during a single ascent, These observations and this application of video technology create a model for further physiological and behavioral studies of foraging, and also emphasize the potential importance of shallow dives as sources of food intake for emperor penguins during foraging trips to sea.

Ponganis, PJ, Van Dam RP, Knower T, Levenson DH.  2001.  Temperature regulation in emperor penguins foraging under sea ice. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology a-Molecular and Integrative Physiology. 129:811-820.   10.1016/s1095-6433(01)00349-x   AbstractWebsite

Inferior vena caval (IVC) and anterior abdominal (AA) temperatures were recorded in seven emperor penguins (Aptenodytes foresteri) foraging under sea ice in order to evaluate the hypothesis that hypothermia-induced metabolic suppression might extend aerobic diving time. Diving durations ranged from 1 to 12.5 min, with 39% of dives greater than the measured aerobic dive limit of 5.6 min. Anterior abdominal temperature decreased progressively throughout dives, and partially returned to pre-dive values during surface intervals. The lowest AA temperature was 19 degreesC. However, mean AA temperatures during dives did not correlate with diving durations. In six of seven penguins, only minor fluctuations in IVC temperatures occurred during diving. These changes were often elevations in temperature. In the one exception, although IVC temperatures decreased, the reductions were less than those in the anterior abdomen and did not correlate with diving durations. Because of these findings, we consider it unlikely that regional hypothermia in emperor penguins leads to a significant reduction in oxygen consumption of the major organs within the abdominal core. Rather, temperature profiles during dives are consistent with a model of regional heterothermy with conservation of core temperature, peripheral vasoconstriction, and cooling of an outer body shell. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.

Levenson, DH, Ponganis PJ, Crognale MA, Deegan JF, Dizon A, Jacobs GH.  2006.  Visual pigments of marine carnivores: pinnipeds, polar bear, and sea otter. Journal of Comparative Physiology a-Neuroethology Sensory Neural and Behavioral Physiology. 192:833-843.   10.1007/s00359-006-0121-x   AbstractWebsite

Rod and cone visual pigments of 11 marine carnivores were evaluated. Rod, middle/long-wavelength sensitive (M/L) cone, and short-wavelength sensitive (S) cone opsin (if present) sequences were obtained from retinal mRNA. Spectral sensitivity was inferred through evaluation of known spectral tuning residues. The rod pigments of all but one of the pinnipeds were similar to those of the sea otter, polar bear, and most other terrestrial carnivores with spectral peak sensitivities (lambda(max)) of 499 or 501 nm. Similarly, the M/L cone pigments of the pinnipeds, polar bear, and otter had inferred lambda(max) of 545 to 560 nm. Only the rod opsin sequence of the elephant seal had sensitivity characteristic of adaptation for vision in the marine environment, with an inferred lambda(max) of 487 nm. No evidence of S cones was found for any of the pinnipeds. The polar bear and otter had S cones with inferred lambda(max) of similar to 440 nm. Flicker-photometric ERG was additionally used to examine the in situ sensitivities of three species of pinniped. Despite the use of conditions previously shown to evoke cone responses in other mammals, no cone responses could be elicited from any of these pinnipeds. Rod photoreceptor responses for all three species were as predicted by the genetic data.