Publications

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2018
Tift, MS, Huckstadt LA, Ponganis PJ.  2018.  Anterior vena caval oxygen profiles in a deep-diving California sea lion: arteriovenous shunts, a central venous oxygen store and oxygenation during lung collapse. Journal of Experimental Biology. 221   10.1242/jeb.163428   AbstractWebsite

Deep-diving California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) can maintain arterial hemoglobin saturation (S-O2) above 90% despite lung collapse (lack of gas exchange) and extremely low posterior vena caval S-O2 in the middle of the dive. We investigated anterior vena caval P-O2 and S-O2 during dives of an adult female sea lion to investigate two hypotheses: (1) posterior vena caval S-O2 is not representative of the entire venous oxygen store and (2) a well-oxygenated (arterialized) central venous oxygen reservoir might account for maintenance of arterial S-O2 during lung collapse. During deep dives, initial anterior vena caval S-O2 was elevated at 83.6 +/- 8.4% (n = 102), presumably owing to arteriovenous shunting. It remained high until the bottom phase of the dive and then decreased during ascent, whereas previously determined posterior vena caval S-O2 declined during descent and then often increased during ascent. These divergent patterns confirmed that posterior vena caval S-O2 was not representative of the entire venous oxygen store. Prior to and early during descent of deep dives, the high S-O2 values of both the anterior and posterior venae cavae may enhance arterialization of a central venous oxygen store. However, anterior vena caval S-O2 values at depths beyond lung collapse reached levels as low as 40%, making it unlikely that even a completely arterialized central venous oxygen store could account for maintenance of high arterial S-O2. These findings suggest that maintenance of high arterial S-O2 during deep dives is due to persistence of some gas exchange at depths beyond presumed lung collapse.

2017
Ponganis, PJ, McDonald BI, Tift MS, Williams CL.  2017.  Heart rate regulation in diving sea lions: the vagus nerve rules. Journal of Experimental Biology. 220:1372-1381.   10.1242/jeb.146779   AbstractWebsite

Recent publications have emphasized the potential generation of morbid cardiac arrhythmias secondary to autonomic conflict in diving marine mammals. Such conflict, as typified by cardiovascular responses to cold water immersion in humans, has been proposed to result from exercise-related activation of cardiac sympathetic fibers to increase heart rate, combined with depth-related changes in parasympathetic tone to decrease heart rate. After reviewing the marine mammal literature and evaluating heart rate profiles of diving California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), we present an alternative interpretation of heart rate regulation that de-emphasizes the concept of autonomic conflict and the risk of morbid arrhythmias in marine mammals. We hypothesize that: (1) both the sympathetic cardiac accelerator fibers and the peripheral sympathetic vasomotor fibers are activated during dives even without exercise, and their activities are elevated at the lowest heart rates in a dive when vasoconstriction is maximal, (2) in diving animals, parasympathetic cardiac tone via the vagus nerve dominates over sympathetic cardiac tone during all phases of the dive, thus producing the bradycardia, (3) adjustment in vagal activity, which may be affected by many inputs, including exercise, is the primary regulator of heart rate and heart rate fluctuations during diving, and (4) heart beat fluctuations (benign arrhythmias) are common in marine mammals. Consistent with the literature and with these hypotheses, we believe that the generation of morbid arrhythmias because of exercise or stress during dives is unlikely in marine mammals.

2013
McDonald, BI, Ponganis PJ.  2013.  Insights from venous oxygen profiles: oxygen utilization and management in diving California sea lions. Journal of Experimental Biology. 216:3332-3341.   10.1242/jeb.085985   AbstractWebsite

The management and depletion of O-2 stores underlie the aerobic dive capacities of marine mammals. The California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) presumably optimizes O-2 store management during all dives, but approaches its physiological limits during deep dives to greater than 300. m depth. Blood O-2 comprises the largest component of total body O-2 stores in adult sea lions. Therefore, we investigated venous blood O-2 depletion during dives of California sea lions during maternal foraging trips to sea by: (1) recording venous partial pressure of O-2 (PO2) profiles during dives, (2) characterizing the O-2-hemoglobin (Hb) dissociation curve of sea lion Hb and (3) converting the PO2 profiles into percent Hb saturation (SO2) profiles using the dissociation curve. The O-2-Hb dissociation curve was typical of other pinnipeds (P-50=28 +/- 2mmHg at pH 7.4). In 43% of dives, initial venous SO2 values were greater than 78% (estimated resting venous SO2), indicative of arterialization of venous blood. Blood O-2 was far from depleted during routine shallow dives, with minimum venous SO2 values routinely greater than 50%. However, in deep dives greater than 4. min in duration, venous SO2 reached minimum values below 5% prior to the end of the dive, but then increased during the last 30-60s of ascent. These deep dive profiles were consistent with transient venous blood O-2 depletion followed by partial restoration of venous O-2 through pulmonary gas exchange and peripheral blood flow during ascent. These differences in venous O-2 profiles between shallow and deep dives of sea lions reflect distinct strategies of O-2 store management and suggest that underlying cardiovascular responses will also differ.

2011
Williams, CL, Meir JU, Ponganis PJ.  2011.  What triggers the aerobic dive limit? Patterns of muscle oxygen depletion during dives of emperor penguins Journal of Experimental Biology. 214:1802-1812.   10.1242/jeb.052233   AbstractWebsite

The physiological basis of the aerobic dive limit (ADL), the dive duration associated with the onset of post-dive blood lactate elevation, is hypothesized to be depletion of the muscle oxygen (O(2)) store. A dual wavelength near-infrared spectrophotometer was developed and used to measure myoglobin (Mb) O(2) saturation levels in the locomotory muscle during dives of emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri). Two distinct patterns of muscle O(2) depletion were observed. Type A dives had a monotonic decline, and, in dives near the ADL, the muscle O(2) store was almost completely depleted. This pattern of Mb desaturation was consistent with lack of muscle blood flow and supports the hypothesis that the onset of post-dive blood lactate accumulation is secondary to muscle O(2) depletion during dives. The mean type A Mb desaturation rate allowed for calculation of a mean muscle O(2) consumption of 12.4. ml O(2). kg(-1) muscle. min(-1), based on a Mb concentration of 6.4. g 100. g(-1) muscle. Type B desaturation patterns demonstrated a more gradual decline, often reaching a mid-dive plateau in Mb desaturation. This mid-dive plateau suggests maintenance of some muscle perfusion during these dives. At the end of type B dives, Mb desaturation rate increased and, in dives beyond the ADL, Mb saturation often reached near 0%. Thus, although different physiological strategies may be used during emperor penguin diving, both Mb desaturation patterns support the hypothesis that the onset of post-dive lactate accumulation is secondary to muscle O(2) store depletion.

2010
Ponganis, PJ, Meir JU, Williams CL.  2010.  Oxygen store depletion and the aerobic dive limit in emperor penguins. Aquatic Biology. 8:237-245.   10.3354/ab00216   AbstractWebsite

The aerobic dive limit (ADL), dive duration associated with the onset of post-dive blood lactate elevation, has been widely used in the interpretation of diving physiology and diving behavior. However, its physiological basis is incompletely understood, and in most studies, ADLs are simply calculated with an O(2) store/O(2) consumption formula. To better understand the ADL, research has been conducted on emperor penguins diving at an isolated dive hole. This work has revealed that O(2) stores are greater than previously estimated, and that the rate of depletion of those O(2) stores appears to be regulated primarily through a diving bradycardia and the efficiency of swimming. Blood and respiratory O(2) stores are not depleted at the 5.6 min ADL determined by post-dive blood lactate measurements. It is hypothesized that muscle, isolated from the circulation during a dive, is the primary source of lactate accumulation. To predict this 5.6 min ADL for these shallow dives at the isolated dive hole with the classic O(2) store/O(2) consumption formula, an O(2) consumption rate of 2x the predicted metabolic rate of a penguin at rest is required. In contrast, if the formula is used to calculate an ADL that is defined as the time for all consumable O(2) stores to be depleted, then a 23.1 min dive, in which final venous partial pressure of oxygen (P(O2)) was 6 mm Hg (0.8 kPa), represents such a maximum limit and demonstrates that an O(2) consumption rate of about 0.5x the predicted rate of an emperor penguin at rest is required in the formula.

2009
Ponganis, PJ, Stockard TK, Meir JU, Williams CL, Ponganis KV, Howard R.  2009.  O-2 store management in diving emperor penguins. Journal of Experimental Biology. 212:217-224.   10.1242/jeb.026096   AbstractWebsite

In order to further define O-2 store utilization during dives and understand the physiological basis of the aerobic dive limit (ADL, dive duration associated with the onset of post-dive blood lactate accumulation), emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) were equipped with either a blood partial pressure of oxygen (P-O2) recorder or a blood sampler while they were diving at an isolated dive hole in the sea ice of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Arterial P-O2 profiles (57 dives) revealed that (a) pre-dive P-O2 was greater than that at rest, (b) P-O2 transiently increased during descent and (c) post-dive P-O2 reached that at rest in 1.92 +/- 1.89 min (N=53). Venous P-O2 profiles (130 dives) revealed that (a) pre-dive venous P-O2 was greater than that at rest prior to 61% of dives, (b) in 90% of dives venous P-O2 transiently increased with a mean maximum P-O2 of 53 +/- 18 mmHg and a mean increase in P-O2 of 11 +/- 12 mmHg, (c) in 78% of dives, this peak venous P-O2 occurred within the first 3 min, and (d) post-dive venous P-O2 reached that at rest within 2.23 +/- 2.64 min (N=84). Arterial and venous P-O2 values in blood samples collected 1-3 min into dives were greater than or near to the respective values at rest. Blood lactate concentration was less than 2 mmol l(-1) as far as 10.5 min into dives, well beyond the known ADL of 5.6 min. Mean arterial and venous P-N2 of samples collected at 20-37 m depth were 2.5 times those at the surface, both being 2.1 +/- 0.7 atmospheres absolute (ATA; N=3 each), and were not significantly different. These findings are consistent with the maintenance of gas exchange during dives (elevated arterial and venous P-O2 and P-N2 during dives), muscle ischemia during dives (elevated venous P-O2, lack of lactate washout into blood during dives), and arterio-venous shunting of blood both during the surface period (venous P-O2 greater than that at rest) and during dives (arterialized venous P-O2 values during descent, equivalent arterial and venous P-N2 values during dives). These three physiological processes contribute to the transfer of the large respiratory O-2 store to the blood during the dive, isolation of muscle metabolism from the circulation during the dive, a decreased rate of blood O-2 depletion during dives, and optimized loading of O-2 stores both before and after dives. The lack of blood O-2 depletion and blood lactate elevation during dives beyond the ADL suggests that active locomotory muscle is the site of tissue lactate accumulation that results in post-dive blood lactate elevation in dives beyond the ADL.

2006
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.

2001
Jobsis, PD, Ponganis PJ, Kooyman GL.  2001.  Effects of training on forced submersion responses in harbor seals. Journal of Experimental Biology. 204:3877-3885. AbstractWebsite

In several pinniped species, the heart rates observed during unrestrained dives are frequently higher than the severe bradycardias recorded during forced submersions. To examine other physiological components of the classic 'dive response' during such moderate bradycardias, a training protocol was developed to habituate harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) to short forced submersions. Significant changes were observed between physiological measurements made during naive and trained submersions (3-3.5min). Differences were found in measurements of heart rate during submersion (naive 18 +/-4.3 beats min(-1) versus trained 35 +/-3.4 beats min(-1)), muscle blood flow measured using laser-Doppler flowmetry (naive 1.8 +/-0.8 ml min(-1) 100 g(-1) versus trained 5.8 +/-3.9 ml min(-1) 100 g(-1)), change in venous P-O 2 (naive -0.44 +/-1.25 kPa versus trained -1.48 +/-0.76 kPa) and muscle deoxygenation rate (naive -0.67 +/-0.27 mvd s(-1) versus trained -0.51 +/-0.18 mvd s(-1), a relative measure of muscle oxygenation provided by the Vander Niroscope, where mvd are milli-vander units). In contrast to the naive situation, the post-submersion increase in plasma lactate levels was only rarely significant in trained seals. Resting eupneic (while breathing) heart rate and total oxygen consumption rates (measured in two seals) were not significantly different between the naive and trained states. This training protocol revealed that the higher heart rate and greater muscle blood flow in the trained seals were associated with a lower muscle deoxygenation rate, presumably secondary to greater extraction of blood O-2 during trained submersions. Supplementation of muscle oxygenation by blood O-2 delivery during diving would increase the rate of blood O-2 depletion but could prolong the duration of aerobic muscle metabolism during diving. This alteration of the dive response may increase the metabolic efficiency of diving.