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J Exp Biol. 2001 Oct;204(Pt 19):3273-81.

Standard metabolic rate at the surface and during trained submersions in adult California sea lions (Zalophus californianus).

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  • 1Department of Biology and Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA.


The metabolic rate (MR) of four adult California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), two males and two females, was quantified during trained submersion and stationing behavior in laboratory tanks. MR was measured, at rest and for single submersions of increasing duration (1-7 min), by measuring oxygen consumption using open-circuit, indirect calorimetry. Standard MR was measured under conditions defined for basal MR and was found to be 1.9 to 3 times that predicted for terrestrial animals of similar size. Submersion MRs were calculated from the post-submersion oxygen debt and declined to as little as 47 % of standard MR on the longest submersions. This hypometabolic response was proportional to the duration of submersion and was greatest for the maximum duration submersions. Short submersions produced MRs equivalent to measured standard MR. These data suggest that although California sea lions maintain an elevated metabolism under standard conditions, they are capable of reducing their metabolism in response to the needs of diving. Such metabolic flexibility enables sea lions to moderate their oxygen use during diving and to extend their aerobic diving capability.

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