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Physiol Biochem Zool. 2005 Jan-Feb;78(1):9-17.

Diving heart rate development in postnatal harbour seals, Phoca vitulina.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada.


Harbour seals, Phoca vitulina, dive from birth, providing a means of mapping the development of the diving response, and so our objective was to investigate the postpartum development of diving bradycardia. The study was conducted May-July 2000 and 2001 in the St. Lawrence River Estuary (48 degrees 41'N, 68 degrees 01'W). Both depth and heart rate (HR) were remotely recorded during 86,931 dives (ages 2-42 d, n = 15) and only depth for an additional 20,300 dives (combined data covered newborn to 60 d, n = 20). The mean dive depth and mean dive durations were conservative during nursing (2.1 +/- 0.1 m and 0.57 +/- 0.01 min, range = 0-30.9 m and 0-5.9 min, respectively). The HR of neonatal pups during submersion was bimodal, but as days passed, the milder of the two diving HRs disappeared from their diving HR record. By 15 d of age, most of the dive time was spent at the lower diving bradycardia rate. Additionally, this study shows that pups are born with the ability to maintain the lower, more fully developed dive bradycardia during focused diving but do not do so during shorter routine dives.

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