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2010
Ponganis, PJ, Welch TJ, Welch LS, Stockard TK.  2010.  Myoglobin production in emperor penguins. Journal of Experimental Biology. 213:1901-1906.   10.1242/jeb.042093   AbstractWebsite

Increased oxygen storage is essential to the diving capacities of marine mammals and seabirds. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying this adaptation are unknown. Myoglobin (Mb) and Mb mRNA concentrations were analyzed in emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) adults and chicks with spectrophotometric and RNase protection assays to evaluate production of their large Mb-bound O(2) stores. Mean pectoral Mb concentration and Mb mRNA content increased throughout the pre-fledging period and were 15-fold and 3-fold greater, respectively, in adults than in 3.5 month old chicks. Mean Mb concentration in 5.9 month old juveniles was 2.7 +/- 0.4 g 100 g(-1) muscle (44% that of wild adults), and in adults that had been captive all their lives it was 3.7 +/- 0.1 g 100 g(-1) muscle. The Mb and Mb mRNA data are consistent with regulation of Mb production at the level of transcription as in other animals. Significant Mb and Mb mRNA production occurred in chicks and young juveniles even without any diving activity. The further increase in adult Mb concentrations appears to require the exercise/hypoxia of diving because Mb concentration in captive, non-diving adults only reached 60% of that of wild adults. The much greater relative increase in Mb concentration than in Mb mRNA content between young chicks and adults suggests that there is not a simple 1:1 relationship between Mb mRNA content and Mb concentration. Nutritional limitation in young chicks and post-transcriptional regulation of Mb concentration may also be involved.

Houser, DS, Dankiewicz-Talmadge LA, Stockard TK, Ponganis PJ.  2010.  Investigation of the potential for vascular bubble formation in a repetitively diving dolphin. Journal of Experimental Biology. 213:52-62.   10.1242/jeb.028365   AbstractWebsite

The production of venous gas emboli (VGE) resulting from altered dive behavior is postulated as contributing to the stranding of beaked whales exposed to mid-frequency active sonar. To test whether nitrogen gas uptake during repetitive breath-hold diving is sufficient for asymptomatic VGE formation in odontocetes, a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus Montagu) was trained to perform 10-12 serial dives with 60s surface intervals to depths of 30, 50, 70 or 100m. The dolphin remained at the bottom depth for 90s on each dive. Doppler and/or two-dimensional imaging ultrasound did not detect VGE in the portal and brachiocephalic veins following a dive series. Van Slyke analyses of serial, post-dive blood samples drawn from the fluke yielded blood nitrogen partial pressure (P(N2)) values that were negligibly different from control samples. Mean heart rate (HR; +/-1. s.d.) recorded during diving was 50+/-3. beats min(-1) and was not significantly different between the 50, 70 and 100 m dive sessions. The absence of VGE and elevated blood P(N2) during post-dive periods do not support the hypothesis that N(2) supersaturation during repetitive dives contributes to VGE formation in the dolphin. The diving HR pattern and the presumed rapid N(2) washout during the surface-interval tachycardia probably minimized N(2) accumulation in the blood during dive sessions.

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
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Shiomi, K, Narazaki T, Sato K, Shimatani K, Arai N, Ponganis PJ, Miyazaki N.  2010.  Data-processing artefacts in three-dimensional dive path reconstruction from geomagnetic and acceleration data. Aquatic Biology. 8:299-304.   10.3354/ab00239   AbstractWebsite

Tri-axis magnetism and acceleration data loggers have recently been used to obtain time-series headings and, consequently, the 3-dimensional dive paths of aquatic animals. However, problems may arise in the resulting calculation process with multiple parameters. In this study, the dive paths of loggerhead turtles and emperor penguins were reconstructed. For both species, apparently unrealistic movements were found. Time-series heading data of turtles showed small regular fluctuations synchronous with stroking. In the dive paths of penguins, infrequent abrupt changes in heading were observed during stroke cycles. These were unlikely to represent true behaviours according to observations of underwater behaviour and tri-axis magnetism and acceleration data. Based on the relationship between sampling frequency and frequency of body posture change, we suggest that (1) the changes in the animals' posture concurrent with strokes and (2) the mismatched treatment (i.e. filtering and non-filtering) of the acceleration and magnetism data caused the artefacts. These inferences are supported by the results of simulations. For data sets obtained at a given sampling frequency, the error pattern in calculated dive paths is likely to differ depending on the frequency and amplitude of body posture changes and in swim speed. In order to avoid misinterpretation, it is necessary to understand the assumptions and inherent problems of the calculation methods as well as the behavioural characteristics of the study animals.

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
Meir, JU, Champagne CD, Costa DP, Williams CL, Ponganis PJ.  2009.  Extreme hypoxemic tolerance and blood oxygen depletion in diving elephant seals. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 297:R927-R939.   10.1152/ajpregu.00247.2009   AbstractWebsite

Meir JU, Champagne CD, Costa DP, Williams CL, Ponganis PJ. Extreme hypoxemic tolerance and blood oxygen depletion in diving elephant seals. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 297: R927-R939, 2009. First published July 29, 2009; doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00247.2009.-Species that maintain aerobic metabolism when the oxygen (O(2)) supply is limited represent ideal models to examine the mechanisms underlying tolerance to hypoxia. The repetitive, long dives of northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) have remained a physiological enigma as O(2) stores appear inadequate to maintain aerobic metabolism. We evaluated hypoxemic tolerance and blood O(2) depletion by 1) measuring arterial and venous O(2) partial pressure (PO(2)) during dives with a PO(2)/temperature recorder on elephant seals, 2) characterizing the O(2) hemoglobin (O(2)-Hb) dissociation curve of this species, 3) applying the dissociation curve to PO(2) profiles to obtain %Hb saturation (SO(2)), and 4) calculating blood O(2) store depletion during diving. Optimization of O(2) stores was achieved by high venous O(2) loading and almost complete depletion of blood O(2) stores during dives, with net O(2) content depletion values up to 91% (arterial) and 100% (venous). In routine dives (>10 min) Pv(O2) and Pa(O2) values reached 2-10 and 12-23 mmHg, respectively. This corresponds to SO(2) of 1-26% and O(2) contents of 0.3 (venous) and 2.7 ml O(2)/dl blood (arterial), demonstrating remarkable hypoxemic tolerance as PaO(2) is nearly equivalent to the arterial hypoxemic threshold of seals. The contribution of the blood O(2) store alone to metabolic rate was nearly equivalent to resting metabolic rate, and mean temperature remained near 37 degrees C. These data suggest that elephant seals routinely tolerate extreme hypoxemia during dives to completely utilize the blood O(2) store and maximize aerobic dive duration.

Meir, JU, Ponganis PJ.  2009.  High-affinity hemoglobin and blood oxygen saturation in diving emperor penguins. Journal of Experimental Biology. 212:3330-3338.   10.1242/jeb.033761   AbstractWebsite

The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) thrives in the Antarctic underwater environment, diving to depths greater than 500m and for durations longer than 23 min. To examine mechanisms underlying the exceptional diving ability of this species and further describe blood oxygen (O(2)) transport and depletion while diving, we characterized the O(2)-hemoglobin (Hb) dissociation curve of the emperor penguin in whole blood. This allowed us to (1) investigate the biochemical adaptation of Hb in this species, and (2) address blood O(2) depletion during diving, by applying the dissociation curve to previously collected partial pressure of O(2) (P(O2)) profiles to estimate in vivo Hb saturation (S(O2)) changes during dives. This investigation revealed enhanced Hb-O(2) affinity (P(50)=28mmHg, pH7.5) in the emperor penguin, similar to high-altitude birds and other penguin species. This allows for increased O(2) at low blood P(O2) levels during diving and more complete depletion of the respiratory O(2) store. S(O2) profiles during diving demonstrated that arterial S(O2) levels are maintained near 100% throughout much of the dive, not decreasing significantly until the final ascent phase. End-of-dive venous S(O2) values were widely distributed and optimization of the venous blood O(2) store resulted from arterialization and near complete depletion of venous blood O(2) during longer dives. The estimated contribution of the blood O(2) store to diving metabolic rate was low and highly variable. This pattern is due, in part, to the influx of O(2) from the lungs into the blood during diving, and variable rates of tissue O(2) uptake.

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.

2008
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.

Barber-Meyer, SM, Kooyman GL, Ponganis PJ.  2008.  Trends in western Ross Sea emperor penguin chick abundances and their relationships to climate. Antarctic Science. 20:3-11.   10.1017/s0954102007000673   AbstractWebsite

The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is extremely dependent on the extent and stability of sea ice, which may make the species particularly susceptible to environmental change. In order to appraise the stability of the emperor penguin populations at six colonies in the western Ross Sea, we used linear regression analysis to evaluate chick abundance trends (1983-2005) and Pearson's r correlation to assess their relation to two local and two large-scale climate variables. We detected only one significant abundance trend; the Cape Roget colony increased from 1983 to 1996 (n = 6). Higher coefficients of variation in chick abundances at smaller colonies (Cape Crozier, Beaufort Island, Franklin Island) suggest that such colonies occupy marginal habitat, and are more susceptible to environmental change. We determined chick abundance to be most often correlated with local Ross Sea climate variables (sea ice extent and sea surface temperature), but not in consistent patterns across the colonies. We propose that chick abundance is most impacted by fine scale sea ice extent and local weather events, which are best evaluated by on-site assessments. We did not find sufficient evidence to reject the hypothesis that the overall emperor penguin population in the Ross Sea was stable during this period.

Meir, JU, Stockard TK, Williams CL, Ponganis KV, Ponganis PJ.  2008.  Heart rate regulation and extreme bradycardia in diving emperor penguins. Journal of Experimental Biology. 211:1169-1179.   10.1242/jeb.013235   AbstractWebsite

To investigate the diving heart rate (f(H)) response of the emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri), the consummate avian diver, birds diving at an isolated dive hole in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica were outfitted with digital electrocardiogram recorders, two-axis accelerometers and time depth recorders ( TDRs). In contrast to any other freely diving bird, a true bradycardia (fH significantly < f(H) at rest) occurred during diving [dive fH (total beats/duration)= 57 +/- 2 beats min(-1), f(H) at rest= 73 +/- 2 beats min(-1) ( mean +/- s. e. m.)]. For dives less than the aerobic dive limit ( ADL; duration beyond which [ blood lactate] increases above resting levels), dive f(H)= 85 +/- 3 beats min(-1), whereas f H in dives greater than the ADL was significantly lower (41 +/- 1 beats min(-1)). In dives greater than the ADL, f(H) reached extremely low values: f H during the last 5 mins of an 18 min dive was 6 beats min(-1). Dive f H and minimum instantaneous f(H) during dives declined significantly with increasing dive duration. Dive f(H) was independent of swim stroke frequency. This suggests that progressive bradycardia and peripheral vasoconstriction ( including isolation of muscle) are primary determinants of blood oxygen depletion in diving emperor penguins. Maximum instantaneous surface interval f(H) in this study is the highest ever recorded for emperor penguins ( 256 beats min(-1)), equivalent to f(H) at V-O2 max., presumably facilitating oxygen loading and post-dive metabolism. The classic Scholander-Irving dive response in these emperor penguins contrasts with the absence of true bradycardia in diving ducks, cormorants, and other penguin species.

Shiomi, K, Sato K, Mitamura H, Arai N, Naito Y, Ponganis PJ.  2008.  Effect of ocean current on the dead-reckoning estimation of 3-D dive paths of emperor penguins. Aquatic Biology. 3:265-270.   10.3354/ab00087   AbstractWebsite

The dead-reckoning technique is a useful method for obtaining 3-D movement data of aquatic animals. However, such positional data include an accumulative error. Understanding the source of the error is important for proper data interpretation. In order to determine whether ocean currents affect dive paths calculated by dead-reckoning, as has previously been hypothesized, we examined the directions of the estimated positions relative to the known real points (error direction) and the relationship between the error direction and the current direction. 3-D dive paths of emperor penguins Aptenodytes forsteri diving at isolated dive holes in eastern McMurdo Sound were reconstructed by dead-reckoning, and the net error and error direction were calculated. The net error correlated positively with the dive duration. The error directions were not distributed uniformly, and the mean error direction tended to be north of the starting point of dives. Because there was a southward-flowing current in eastern McMurdo Sound, the ocean current was likely to affect the calculated dive paths. Therefore, the method of error correction generally used, in which the net error divided by the dive duration is applied to each estimated position, is realistically appropriate, provided that the current does not change significantly during a dive.

2007
Barber-Meyer, SM, Kooyman GL, Ponganis PJ.  2007.  Estimating the relative abundance of emperor penguins at inaccessible colonies using satellite imagery. Polar Biology. 30:1565-1570.   10.1007/s00300-007-0317-8   AbstractWebsite

Emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) populations are useful environmental indicators due to the bird's extreme reliance on sea ice. We used remote sensing technology to estimate relative adult bird abundance at two inaccessible emperor penguin colonies in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. We performed supervised classification of 12 panchromatic satellite images of the seven known Ross Sea colonies. We used regression to predict adult bird counts at the inaccessible colonies by relating the number of pixels classified as "penguin" in the satellite images of the accessible colonies to corresponding known adult bird counts from aerial photographs or ground counts. While our analysis was hampered by excessive guano and shadows, we used satellite imagery to differentiate between relatively small (< 3,000 adult birds) and larger colonies (> 5,000 adult birds). Remote sensing technology is logistically less intense and less costly than aerial or ground censuses when the objective is to document penguin presence and/or large emperor penguin population changes (e.g., catastrophic changes). Improvements expected soon in the resolution of the satellite images should allow for more accurate abundance estimates.

Kooyman, GL, Ainley DG, Ballard G, Ponganis PJ.  2007.  Effects of giant icebergs on two emperor penguin colonies in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. Antarctic Science. 19:31-38.   10.1017/s0954102007000065   AbstractWebsite

The arrival in January 2001 in the south-west Ross Sea of two giant icebergs, C16 and Bl5A, subsequently had dramatic affects on two emperor penguin colonies. B15A collided with the north-west tongue of the Ross Ice Shelf at Cape Crozier, Ross Island, in the following months and destroyed the penguins' nesting habitat. The colony totally failed in 2001, and years after, with the icebergs still in place, exhibited reduced production that ranged from 0 to 40% of the 1201 chicks produced in 2000. At Beaufort Island, 70 km NW of Crozier, chick production declined to 6% of the 2000 count by 2004. Collisions with the Ross Ice Shelf at Cape Crozier caused incubating adults to be crushed, trapped in ravines, or to abandon the colony and, since 2001, to occupy poorer habitat. The icebergs separated Beaufort Island from the Ross Sea Polynya, formerly an easy route to feeding and wintering areas. This episode has provided a glimpse of events which have probably occurred infrequently since the West Antarctic Ice Sheet began to retreat 12 000 years ago. The results allow assessment of recovery rates for one colony decimated by both adult and chick mortality, and the other colony by adult abandonment and chick mortality.

Sato, K, Watanuki Y, Takahashi A, Miller PJO, Tanaka H, Kawabe R, Ponganis PJ, Handrich Y, Akamatsu T, Watanabe Y, Mitani Y, Costa DP, Bost CA, Aoki K, Amano M, Trathan P, Shapiro A, Naito Y.  2007.  Stroke frequency, but not swimming speed, is related to body size in free-ranging seabirds, pinnipeds and cetaceans. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences. 274:471-477.   10.1098/rspb.2006.0005   AbstractWebsite

It is obvious, at least qualitatively, that small animals move their locomotory apparatus faster than large animals: small insects move their wings invisibly fast, while large birds flap their wings slowly. However, quantitative observations have been difficult to obtain from free-ranging swimming animals. We surveyed the swimming behaviour of animals ranging from 0.5 kg seabirds to 30 000 kg sperm whales using animal-borne accelerometers. Dominant stroke cycle frequencies of swimming specialist seabirds and marine mammals were proportional to mass(-0.29) (R-2=0.99, n=17 groups), while propulsive swimming speeds of 1-2 m s(-1) were independent of body size. This scaling relationship, obtained from breath-hold divers expected to swim optimally to conserve oxygen, does not agree with recent theoretical predictions for optimal swimming. Seabirds that use their wings for both swimming and flying stroked at a lower frequency than other swimming specialists of the same size, suggesting a morphological trade-off with wing size and stroke frequency representing a compromise. In contrast, foot-propelled diving birds such as shags had similar stroke frequencies as other swimming specialists. These results suggest that muscle characteristics may constrain swimming during cruising travel, with convergence among diving specialists in the proportions and contraction rates of propulsive muscles.

Ponganis, PJ, Stockard TK.  2007.  The Antarctic toothfish: how common a prey for Weddell seals? Antarctic Science. 19:441-442.   10.1017/s0954102007000715   AbstractWebsite

The Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni Norman) has been considered an occasional large prey item of the Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii Lesson) (Kooyman 1967, Calhaem & Christoffel 1969, Testa et al. 1985, Castellini et al. 1992, Davis et al. 1999, Fuiman et al. 2002). The seal's most common prey is the Antarctic silverfish (Pleuragramma antarcticum Boulenger) as well as benthic and sub-ice fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans (Dearborn 1965, Green & Burton 1987, Plotz 1987, Plotz et al. 1991, Castellini et al. 1992, Burns et al. 1998).

Kooyman, GL, Ponganis PJ.  2007.  The initial journey of juvenile emperor penguins. Aquatic Conservation-Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. 17:S37-S43.   10.1002/aqc.930   AbstractWebsite

1. The first major journey of emperor penguins, among several in their lifetime, is the juveniles' dispersal from their natal colony on a trip that takes them beyond Antarctic waters. The route taken by fledglings from Cape Washington (74.5 degrees S; 165.4 degrees E) was Studied by applying satellite transmitters to ten individuals during December 1994-1996. In January 2001 transmitters with longer transmission capacity were also applied to six hand-fed fledglings, which had been held captive for one month while attaining a body mass exceeding that of wild birds. These post-captive birds were released at the ice edge of McMurdo Sound (77.5 degrees S; 165.0 degrees E), which is in the vicinity of other emperor penguin colonies, and 320km south of their natal colony of Cape Washington. 2. Independent of their parents, the wild birds travelled north-east for the next two months, reaching locations as low as 57 degrees S. The post-captive birds travelled north also, but their trek reached only to about 63 degrees S before they turned south, or remained near their most northerly position from March through May. 3. It was concluded that among colonies in the southern Ross Sea: (a) most healthy fledglings Survive at least the first two months at sea, feeding themselves as they go; (b) the Cape Washington fledglings travelled as far north as 57 degrees S, and much of this journey was in ice free waters; (c) by April, the post-captive birds reached at least as far as the large-scale pack ice edge and possibly beyond the edge Lit 63 degrees S; (d) by early March the trend north ends, and by about late March the birds travel to, or remain near the northern ice edge. 4. The reason the birds travel so far north remains a mystery. Copyright (c) 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Ponganis, PJ, Stockard TK, Meir JU, Williams CL, Ponganis KV, Van Dam RP, Howard R.  2007.  Returning on empty: extreme blood O-2 depletion underlies dive capacity of emperor penguins. Journal of Experimental Biology. 210:4279-4285.   10.1242/jeb.011221   AbstractWebsite

Blood gas analyses from emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) at rest, and intravascular P-O2 profiles from free-diving birds were obtained in order to examine hypoxemic tolerance and utilization of the blood O-2 store during dives. Analysis of blood samples from penguins at rest revealed arterial P(O2)s and O-2 contents of 68 +/- 7 mmHg (1 mmHg= 133.3 Pa) and 22.5 +/- 1.3 ml O-2 dl(-1) (N= 3) and venous values of 41 +/- 10 mmHg and 17.4 +/- 2.9 ml O-2 dl(-1) (N= 9). Corresponding arterial and venous Hb saturations for a hemoglobin (Hb) concentration of 18 g dl(-1) were > 91% and 70%, respectively. Analysis of P-O2 profiles obtained from birds equipped with intravascular P-O2 electrodes and backpack recorders during dives revealed that (1) the decline of the final blood P-O2 of a dive in relation to dive duration was variable, (2) final venous P-O2 values spanned a 40-mmHg range at the previously measured aerobic dive limit (ADL; dive duration associated with onset of post-dive blood lactate accumulation), (3) final arterial, venous and previously measured air sac P-O2 values were indistinguishable in longer dives, and (4) final venous P-O2 values of longer dives were as low as 1-6 mmHg during dives. Although blood O-2 is not depleted at the ADL, nearly complete depletion of the blood O-2 store occurs in longer dives. This extreme hypoxemic tolerance, which would be catastrophic in many birds and mammals, necessitates biochemical and molecular adaptations, including a shift in the O-2-Hb dissociation curve of the emperor penguin in comparison to those of most birds. A relatively higher-affinity Hb is consistent with blood P-O2 values and O-2 contents of penguins at rest.

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.  2007.  Bio-logging of physiological parameters in higher marine vertebrates. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 54:183-192.   10.1016/j.dsr2.2006.11.009   AbstractWebsite

Bio-logging of physiological parameters in higher marine vertebrates had its origins in the field of bio-telemetry in the 1960s and 1970s. The development of microprocessor technology allowed its first application to bio-logging investigations of Weddell seal diving physiology in the early 1980s. Since that time, with the use of increased memory capacity, new sensor technology, and novel data processing techniques, investigators have examined heart rate, temperature, swim speed, stroke frequency, stomach function (gastric pH and motility), heat flux, muscle oxygenation, respiratory rate, diving air volume, and oxygen partial pressure (PO(2)) during diving. Swim speed, heart rate, and body temperature have been the most commonly studied parameters. Bio-logging investigation of pressure effects has only been conducted with the use of blood samplers and nitrogen analyses on animals diving at isolated dive holes. The advantages/disadvantages and limitations of recording techniques, probe placement, calibration techniques, and study conditions are reviewed. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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.

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.

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.

2005
Sato, K, Ponganis PJ, Habara Y, Naito Y.  2005.  Emperor penguins adjust swim speed according to the above-water height of ice holes through which they exit. Journal of Experimental Biology. 208:2549-2554.   10.1242/jeb.01665   AbstractWebsite

Emperor penguins leap from the water onto the sea ice. Their ability to reach above-water height depends critically on initial vertical speed of their leaping, assuming that the kinetic energy is converted to gravitational potential energy. We deliberately changed the above-water heights of ice hole exits, in order to examine whether penguins adjusted swim speed in accordance with the above-water height of the ice. Penguins were maintained in a corral on the fast ice in Antarctica, and voluntarily dived through two artificial ice holes. Data loggers were deployed on the penguins to monitor under water behavior. Nine instrumented penguins performed 386 leaps from the holes during experiments. The maximum swim speeds within 1 s before the exits through the holes correlated significantly with the above-water height of the holes. Penguins adopted higher speed to exit through the higher holes than through the lower holes. Speeds of some failed exits were lower than the theoretical minimum values to reach a given height. Penguins failed to exit onto the sea ice in a total of 37 of the trials. There was no preference to use lower holes after they failed to exit through the higher holes. Rather, swim speed was increased for subsequent attempts after failed leaps. These data demonstrated that penguins apparently recognized the above-water height of holes and adopted speeds greater than the minimal vertical speeds to reach the exit height. It is likely, especially in the case of higher holes (>40 cm), that they chose minimum speeds to exit through the holes to avoid excess energy for swimming before leaping. However, some exceptionally high speeds were recorded when they directly exited onto the ice from lower depths. In those cases, birds could increase swim speed without strokes for the final seconds before exit and they only increased the steepness of their body angles as they surfaced, which indicates that the speed required for leaps by emperor penguins were aided by buoyancy, and that penguins can sometimes exit through the ice holes without any stroking effort before leaping.

Knower Stockard, T, Heil J, Meir JU, Sato K, Ponganis KV, Ponganis PJ.  2005.  Air sac P-O2 and oxygen depletion during dives of emperor penguins. Journal of Experimental Biology. 208:2973-2980.   10.1242/jeb.01687   AbstractWebsite

In order to determine the rate and magnitude of respiratory O-2 depletion during dives of emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri), air sac O-2 partial pressure (PO2) was recorded in 73 dives of four birds at an isolated dive hole. These results were evaluated with respect to hypoxic tolerance, the aerobic dive limit (ADL; dive duration beyond which there is post-dive lactate accumulation) and previously measured field metabolic rates (FMRs). 55% of dives were greater in duration than the previously measured 5.6-min ADL. P-O2 and depth profiles revealed compression hyperoxia and gradual O-2 depletion during dives. 42% of final P(O2)s during the dives (recorded during the last 15 s of ascent) were < 20 mmHg (< 2.7 kPa). Assuming that the measured air sac P-O2 is representative of the entire respiratory system, this implies remarkable hypoxic tolerance in emperors. In dives of durations greater than the ADL, the calculated end-of-dive air sac O-2 fraction was < 4%. The respiratory O-2 store depletion rate of an entire dive, based on the change in O-2 fraction during a dive and previously measured diving respiratory volume, ranged from I to 5 ml O-2 kg(-1) min(-1) and decreased exponentially with diving duration. The mean value, 2.1 +/- 0.8 ml O-2 kg(-1) min(-1), was (1) 19-42% of previously measured respiratory O-2 depletion rates during forced submersions and simulated dives, (2) approximately one-third of the predicted total body resting metabolic rate and (3) approximately 10% of the measured FMR. These findings are consistent with a low total body metabolic rate during the dive.