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High Alt Med Biol. 2016 Dec;17(4):323-335. Epub 2016 Oct 19.

Hematocrit and Hemoglobin Levels of Nonhuman Apes at Moderate Altitudes: A Comparison with Humans.

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1 Department of Physiology, McGill University , Montreal, Canada .
2 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo , Colorado Springs, Colorado.


Mortola, Jacopo P. and DeeAnn Wilfong. Hematocrit and hemoglobin levels of nonhuman apes at moderate altitudes: a comparison with humans. High Alt Med Biol. 17:323-335, 2016.-We asked to what extent the hematologic response (increase in hematocrit [Hct] and in blood hemoglobin concentration [Hb]) of humans to altitude hypoxia was shared by our closest relatives, the nonhuman apes. Data were collected from 29 specimens of 7 species of apes at 2073 m altitude (barometric pressure Pb = 598 mm Hg); additional data originated from apes located at a lower altitude (1493 m, Pb = 639 mm Hg). The human altitude profiles of Hct and Hb between sea level and 3000 m were constructed from a compilation of literature sources that (all combined) comprised data sets of 10,000-12,000 subjects for each gender. These human data were binned for 0-250 m altitude (sea level) and for each 500 m of progressively higher altitudes. Values of Hb and Hct of both men and women were significantly higher than at sea level at the 1500 bin (1250-1750 m); hence, the altitude threshold for the human hematological responses must be between 1000 and 1500 m. In the nonhuman apes, no increase in Hct or Hb was apparent at 1500 m; at 2000 m, the increase was significant only for the Hb of females. At either altitude in the group of nonhuman apes, the increase in Hct was much less than in humans, and that of Hb was significantly less at 1500 m. We conclude that lack of, or minimal, hematopoietic response to moderate altitude can occur in mammalian species that are not genetically adapted to high altitudes. Polycythemia is not a common response to altitude hypoxia and, at least at moderate altitudes, the degree of the human response may represent the exception among apes rather than the rule.


altitude adaptation; chimpanzee; gibbon; gorilla; hematology; orangutan; siamang

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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