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Ponganis, PJ, Kooyman GL, Winter LM, Starke LN.  1997.  Heart rate and plasma lactate responses during submerged swimming and trained diving in California sea lions, Zalophus californianus. Journal of Comparative Physiology B-Biochemical Systemic and Environmental Physiology. 167:9-16.   10.1007/s003600050042   AbstractWebsite

California sea lions, Zalophus californianus, were trained to elicit maximum voluntary breath holds during stationary underwater targeting, submerged swimming, and trained diving. Lowest heart rate during rest periods was 57 bpm. The heart rate profiles in all three protocols were dominated by a bradycardia of 20-50 bpm, and demonstrated that otariid diving heart rates were at or below resting heart rate. Venous blood samples were collected after submerged swimming periods of 1-3 min. Plasma lactate began to increase only after 2.3-min submersions. This rise in lactate and our inability to train sea lions to dive or swim submerged for periods longer than 3 min lead us to conclude that an aerobic limit had been reached. Due to the similarity of heart rate responses and swimming velocities recorded during submerged swimming and trained diving, this 2.3-min limit should approximate the aerobic dive limit in these 40-kg sea lions. Total body O-2 stores, based on measurements of blood and muscle O-2 stores in these animals, and prior lung O-2 Store analyses, were 37-43 ml O-2 kg(-1). The aerobic dive limit, calculated with these O-2 stores and prior measurements of at-sea metabolic rates of sea lions, is 1.8-2 min, similar to that measured by the change in post-submersion lactate concentration.

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.

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.

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.

Wright, AK, Ponganis KV, McDonald BI, Ponganis PJ.  2014.  Heart rates of emperor penguins diving at sea: implications for oxygen store management. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 496:85-98.   10.3354/meps10592   AbstractWebsite

Heart rate (f(H)) contributes to control of blood oxygen (O-2) depletion through regulation of the magnitude of pulmonary gas exchange and of peripheral blood flow in diving vertebrates such as penguins. Therefore, we measured H during foraging trip dives of emperor penguins Aptenodytes forsteri equipped with digital electrocardiogram (ECG) recorders and time depth recorders (TDRs). Median dive f(H) (total heartbeats/duration, 64 beats min(-1)) was higher than resting H (56 beats min(-1)) and was negatively related to dive duration. Median dive f(H) in dives greater than the 5.6 min aerobic dive limit (ADL; dive duration associated with the onset of a net accumulation of lactic acid above resting levels) was significantly less than the median dive f(H) of dives less than the ADL (58 vs. 66 beats min(-1)). f(H) profile patterns differed between shallow (<50 m) and deep dives (>250 m), with values usually declining to levels near resting f(H) in shallow, short-duration dives, and to levels as low as 10 beats min(-1) during the deepest segments of deep dives. The total number of heartbeats in a dive was variable in shallow dives and consistently high in deep dives. A true bradycardia (f(H) below resting levels) during segments of 31% of shallow and deep dives of emperor penguins is consistent with reliance on myoglobin-bound O-2 stores for aerobic muscle metabolism that is especially accentuated during the severe bradycardias of deep dives. Although f(H) is low during the deepest segments of deep dives, the total number and distribution of heartbeats in deep, long dives suggest that pulmonary gas exchange and peripheral blood flow primarily occur at shallow depths.

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.

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.

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Kooyman, GL, Ponganis PJ.  2004.  The icing of external recorders during the polar winter. Memoirs of National Institute of Polar Research Special Issue. 58:183-187. AbstractWebsite
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Ponganis, PJ, Meir JU, Williams CL.  2011.  In pursuit of Irving and Scholander: a review of oxygen store management in seals and penguins. Journal of Experimental Biology. 214:3325-3339.   10.1242/jeb.031252   AbstractWebsite

Since the introduction of the aerobic dive limit (ADL) 30 years ago, the concept that most dives of marine mammals and sea birds are aerobic in nature has dominated the interpretation of their diving behavior and foraging ecology. Although there have been many measurements of body oxygen stores, there have been few investigations of the actual depletion of those stores during dives. Yet, it is the pattern, rate and magnitude of depletion of O(2) stores that underlie the ADL. Therefore, in order to assess strategies of O(2) store management, we review (a) the magnitude of O(2) stores, (b) past studies of O(2) store depletion and (c) our recent investigations of O(2) store utilization during sleep apnea and dives of elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) and during dives of emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri). We conclude with the implications of these findings for (a) the physiological responses underlying O(2) store utilization, (b) the physiological basis of the ADL and (c) the value of extreme hypoxemic tolerance and the significance of the avoidance of re-perfusion injury in these animals.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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McDonald, BI, Ponganis PJ.  2012.  Lung collapse in the diving sea lion: hold the nitrogen and save the oxygen. Biology Letters. 8:1047-1049.   10.1098/rsbl.2012.0743   AbstractWebsite

Lung collapse is considered the primary-mechanism that limits nitrogen absorption and decreases the risk of decompression sickness in deep-diving marine mammals. Continuous arterial partial pressure of oxygen (P-O2) profiles in a free-diving female California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) revealed that (i) depth of lung collapse was near 225 m as evidenced by abrupt changes in P-O2 during descent and ascent, (ii) depth of lung collapse was positively related to maximum dive depth, suggesting that the sea lion increased inhaled air volume in deeper dives and (iii) lung collapse at depth preserved a pulmonary oxygen reservoir that supplemented blood oxygen during ascent so that mean end-of-dive arterial P-O2 was 74+/-17 mmHg (greater than 85% haemoglobin saturation). Such information is critical to the understanding and the modelling of both nitrogen and oxygen transport in diving marine mammals.

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Castellini, MA, Kooyman GL, Ponganis PJ.  1992.  Metabolic rates of freely diving Weddell seals: correlations with oxygen stores, swim velocity and diving duration. Journal of Experimental Biology. 165:181-194. AbstractWebsite

The metabolic rates of freely diving Weddell seals were measured using modern methods of on-line computer analysis coupled to oxygen consumption instrumentation. Oxygen consumption values were collected during sleep, resting periods while awake and during diving periods with the seals breathing at the surface of the water in an experimental sea-ice hole in Antarctica. Oxygen consumption during diving was not elevated over resting values but was statistically about 1.5 times greater than sleeping values. The metabolic rate of diving declined with increasing dive duration, but there was no significant difference between resting rates and rates in dives lasting up to 82 min. Swimming speed, measured with a microprocessor velocity recorder, was constant in each animal. Calculations of the aerobic dive limit of these seals were made from the oxygen consumption values and demonstrated that most dives were within this theoretical limit. The results indicate that the cost of diving is remarkably low in Weddell seals relative to other diving mammals and birds.

Ponganis, PJ, Kooyman GL, Castellini MA.  1995.  Multiple sightings of Arnouxs beaked whales along the Victoria Land coast. Marine Mammal Science. 11:247-250.   10.1111/j.1748-7692.1995.tb00523.x   AbstractWebsite
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Williams, CL, Sato K, Shiomi K, Ponganis PJ.  2012.  Muscle energy stores and stroke rates of emperor penguins: implications for muscle metabolism and dive performance. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. 85:120-133.   10.1086/664698   AbstractWebsite

In diving birds and mammals, bradycardia and peripheral vasoconstriction potentially isolate muscle from the circulation. During complete ischemia, ATP production is dependent on the size of the myoglobin oxygen (O-2) store and the concentrations of phosphocreatine (PCr) and glycogen (Gly). Therefore, we measured PCr and Gly concentrations in the primary underwater locomotory muscle of emperor penguin and modeled the depletion of muscle O-2 and those energy stores under conditions of complete ischemia and a previously determined muscle metabolic rate. We also analyzed stroke rate to assess muscle workload variation during dives and evaluate potential limitations on the model. Measured PCr and Gly concentrations, 20.8 and 54.6 mmol kg(-1), respectively, were similar to published values for nondiving animals. The model demonstrated that PCr and Gly provide a large anaerobic energy store, even for dives longer than 20 min. Stroke rate varied throughout the dive profile, indicating muscle workload was not constant during dives as was assumed in the model. The stroke rate during the first 30 s of dives increased with increased dive depth. In extremely long dives, lower overall stroke rates were observed. Although O-2 consumption and energy store depletion may vary during dives, the model demonstrated that PCr and Gly, even at concentrations typical of terrestrial birds and mammals, are a significant anaerobic energy store and can play an important role in the emperor penguin's ability to perform long dives.

Ponganis, PJ, Pierce RW.  1978.  Muscle metabolic profiles and fiber-type composition in some marine mammals. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology B-Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. 59:99-102.   10.1016/0305-0491(78)90187-6   AbstractWebsite

1. Hexokinase, lactate dehydrogenase, 3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase, and malate dehydrogenase activities as well as fiber type composition were determined in skeletal muscles of the California sea lion (Zalophus californianus), the sea otter (Enhydra lutris), and the Pacific white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchusobliquidens).2. The subcutaneous muscle of the sea lion had intermediate glycolytic and oxidative enzyme activities.3. The locomotory muscles examined in the otter and porpoise did not contain a single predominant fiber type, but did have a well developed oxidative as well as glycolytic metabolic capacity.

Ponganis, PJ, Kooyman GL, Castellini MA, Ponganis EP, Ponganis KV.  1993.  Muscle temperature and swim velocity profiles during diving in a Weddell seal, Leptonychotes weddellii. Journal of Experimental Biology. 183:341-346. AbstractWebsite

Locomotory muscle temperature and swim velocity profiles of an adult Weddell seal were recorded over a 21 h period. The highest temperatures occurred during a prolonged surface period (mean 37.3-degrees-C, S.D. 0.16-degrees-C). Muscle temperature averaged 36.8 and 36.6-degrees-C (S.D. 0.25-degrees-C, 0.19-degrees-C) during two dive bouts and showed no consistent fluctuations between dive and interdive surface intervals. Swim velocities were also constant, near 1.3 m s-1. These data indicate that past records of low aortic temperatures (35-degrees-C) during and after prolonged dives are not indicative of whole-body temperature changes, and that muscle temperature, even during dives as long as 45 min, remains near 37-degrees-C.

Dolar, MLL, Suarez P, Ponganis PJ, Kooyman GL.  1999.  Myoglobin in pelagic small cetaceans. Journal of Experimental Biology. 202:227-236. AbstractWebsite

Although myoglobin (Mb) is considered to contribute significantly to the oxygen and diving capacity of marine mammals, few data are available for cetaceans, Cetacean by-catch in the tuna driftnet fisheries in the Sulu Sea, Philippines, afforded the opportunity to examine Mb content and distribution, and to determine muscle mass composition, in Fraser's (Lagenodelphis hosei) and spinner (Stenella longirostris) dolphins and a pygmy killer whale (Feresa attenuata). Age was estimated by body length determination. Stomach contents were analyzed for the presence or absence of milk and solid foods. It was hypothesized (a) that Mb concentration ([Mb]) would be higher in Fraser's and spinner dolphins than in other small cetaceans because of the known mesopelagic distribution of their prey, (b) that [Mb] would vary among different muscles according to function during diving, and (c) that [Mb] would increase with age during development. The results were as follows. ii) Myoglobin concentrations of the longissimus muscle in adult Fraser's (6.8-7.2 g 100 g(-1) muscle) and spinner (5-6 g 100 g(-1) muscle) dolphins and in an immature pygmy killer whale (5.7 g 100 g(-1) muscle) were higher than those reported previously for small cetaceans, (2) [Mb] varied significantly among the different muscle types in adult dolphins but not in calves; in adults, swimming muscles had significantly higher [Mb] than did non-swimming muscles, contained 82-86 % of total Mb, and constituted 75-80 % of total muscle mass. (3) Myoglobin concentrations in Fraser's and spinner dolphins increased with size and age and were 3-4 times greater in adults than in calves, The high Mb concentrations measured in the primary locomotory muscles of these pelagic dolphins are consistent with the known mesopelagic foraging behaviour of Fraser's and spinner dolphins and suggest that the pygmy killer whale is also a deep-diving species. The high Mb concentrations in epaxial, hypaxial and abdominal muscle groups also support the primary locomotory functions suggested for these muscles in other anatomical studies. As in other species. the increase in [Mb] during development probably parallels the development of diving capacity.

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.

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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.

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.

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Ponganis, PJ, St Leger J, Scadeng M.  2015.  Penguin lungs and air sacs: implications for baroprotection, oxygen stores and buoyancy. Journal of Experimental Biology. 218:720-730.   10.1242/jeb.113647   AbstractWebsite

The anatomy and volume of the penguin respiratory system contribute significantly to pulmonary baroprotection, the body O-2 store, buoyancy and hence the overall diving physiology of penguins. Therefore, three-dimensional reconstructions from computerized tomographic (CT) scans of live penguins were utilized to measure lung volumes, air sac volumes, tracheobronchial volumes and total body volumes at different inflation pressures in three species with different dive capacities [Adelie (Pygoscelis adeliae), king (Aptenodytes patagonicus) and emperor (A. forsteri) penguins]. Lung volumes scaled to body mass according to published avian allometrics. Air sac volumes at 30 cm H2O (2.94 kPa) inflation pressure, the assumed maximum volume possible prior to deep dives, were two to three times allometric air sac predictions and also two to three times previously determined end-of-dive total air volumes. Although it is unknown whether penguins inhale to such high volumes prior to dives, these values were supported by (a) body density/buoyancy calculations, (b) prior air volume measurements in free-diving ducks and (c) previous suggestions that penguins may exhale air prior to the final portions of deep dives. Based upon air capillary volumes, parabronchial volumes and tracheobronchial volumes estimated from the measured lung/airway volumes and the only available morphometry study of a penguin lung, the presumed maximum air sac volumes resulted in air sac volume to air capillary/parabronchial/tracheobronchial volume ratios that were not large enough to prevent barotrauma to the non-collapsing, rigid air capillaries during the deepest dives of all three species, and during many routine dives of king and emperor penguins. We conclude that volume reduction of airways and lung air spaces, via compression, constriction or blood engorgement, must occur to provide pulmonary baroprotection at depth. It is also possible that relative air capillary and parabronchial volumes are smaller in these deeper-diving species than in the spheniscid penguin of the morphometry study. If penguins do inhale to this maximum air sac volume prior to their deepest dives, the magnitude and distribution of the body O-2 store would change considerably. In emperor penguins, total body O-2 would increase by 75%, and the respiratory fraction would increase from 33% to 61%. We emphasize that the maximum pre-dive respiratory air volume is still unknown in penguins. However, even lesser increases in air sac volume prior to a dive would still significantly increase the O-2 store. More refined evaluations of the respiratory O-2 store and baroprotective mechanisms in penguins await further investigation of species-specific lung morphometry, start-of-dive air volumes and body buoyancy, and the possibility of air exhalation during dives.

Kooyman, GL, Ponganis PJ.  1998.  The physiological basis of diving to depth: Birds and mammals. Annual Review of Physiology. 60:19-32.   10.1146/annurev.physiol.60.1.19   AbstractWebsite

There is wide diversity in the animals that dive to depth and in the distribution of their body oxygen stores. A hallmark of animals diving to depth is a substantial elevation of muscle myoglobin concentration. In deep divers, more than 80% of the oxygen store is in the blood and muscles. How these oxygen stores are managed, particularly within muscle, is unclear. The aerobic endurance of four species has now been measured. These measurements provide a standard for other species in which the limits cannot be measured. Diving to depth requires several adaptations to the effects of pressure. In mammals, one adaptation is lung collapse at shallow depths, which limits absorption of nitrogen. Blood Nz levels remain below the threshold for decompression sickness. No such adaptive model is known for birds. There appear to be two diving strategies used by animals that dive to depth. Seals, for example, seldom rely on anaerobic metabolism. Birds, on the other hand, frequently rely on anaerobic metabolism to exploit prey-rich depths otherwise unavailable to them.