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Respir Physiol. 2000 Oct;123(1-2):71-85.

Breathing frequencies of northern elephant seals at sea and on land revealed by heart rate spectral analysis.

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Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Blvd., BC, V6T1Z4, Vancouver, Canada.


Elephant seals breathe episodically at sea and on land and surprisingly long apnoeas occur in both situations. An important difference is that recovery from apnoeic periods is much quicker at sea, which might be due, in part, to differences in the ventilatory response. Respiratory frequencies of juvenile northern elephant seals diving at sea and resting on land were estimated from time-frequency maps of the Wigner distribution of heart rate variability. Simultaneous direct measurement of respiration and estimation of respiratory frequency (fR) in the laboratory demonstrated that the error of estimation was small (mean +/- S.D.= 1.05+/-1.23%) and was independent of the magnitude of fR. Eupnoeic fR at sea was 2.4 times higher than on land (22.0+/-2.0 vs. 9.2+/-1.3 breaths min(-1), respectively), facilitating quick recovery from the preceding dive and allowing a 34% increase in time spent apnoeic at sea versus on land. The overall fR (no. of breaths in a eupnoea divided by the total time of the apnoea+eupnoea cycle) of 2.3+/-0.6 breaths min(-1) at sea was no different from the rate on land and was inversely related to the preceding dive duration, suggesting that metabolism on longer dives may be reduced.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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