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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1986 Oct;61(4):1560-9.

Hemoglobin concentrations and blood gas tensions of free-diving Weddell seals.


Arterial blood gas tensions, pH, and hemoglobin concentrations were measured in four free-diving Weddell seals Leptonychotes weddelli. A microprocessor-controlled sampling system enabled us to obtain 24 single and 31 serial aortic blood samples. The arterial O2 tension (PaO2) at rest [78 +/- 13 (SD) Torr] increased with diving compression to a maximum measured value of 232 Torr and then rapidly decreased to 25-35 Torr. The lowest diving PaO2 we measured was 18 Torr just before the seal surfaced from a 27-min dive. A consistent increase of arterial hemoglobin concentrations from 15.1 +/- 1.10 to 22.4 +/- 1.41 g/100 ml (dives less than 17 min) and to 25.4 +/- 0.79 g/100 ml (dives greater than 17 min) occurred during each dive. We suggest that an extension of the sympathetic outflow of the diving reflex possibly caused profound contraction of the Weddell seal's very large spleen (0.89% of body wt at autopsy), although we have no direct evidence. This contraction may have injected large quantities of red blood cells (2/3 of the total) into the seal's central circulation during diving and allowed arterial O2 content to remain constant for the first 15-18 min of long dives. The increase of arterial CO2 tensions during the dive and the compression increase of arterial N2 tensions were also moderated by injecting red blood cells sequestered at ambient pressure. After each dive circulating red blood cells are oxygenated and rapidly sequestered, possibly in the spleen during the first 15 min of recovery.

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