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Respir Physiol. 1982 Apr;48(1):89-105.

Blood oxygen affinity in high- and low-altitude populations of the deer mouse.


There is little solid evidence for specific genetic adaptations in animal populations native to high altitude. There is also continuing debate over what oxygen transport characteristics are truly adaptive at high altitude. We have attempted to elucidate both problems through population genetic and physiological studies of the deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus. That species is noteworthy because it inhabits the widest range of altitudes of any North American mammal, and it shows a high degree of genetic variation in hemoglobins. Deer mice were collected from 35 populations representing ten nominal subspecies covering a broad geographical range of the United States. The mice were acclimated to low altitude (340 m); then a mixing method was used to determine P50 and other blood gas parameters on samples pooled from individuals of representative hemoglobin genotypes. When the data from all subspecies wee combined, there was a highly significant negative correlation between P50 and the native altitude of the population. Tests on progeny reared at low altitude indicated that the differences in P50 were primarily genetic. Part of the clinal variation in P50 could be attributed to 2,3-DPG effects; high-altitude populations showed lower baseline DPG/Hb ratios. Surprisingly, within those subspecies which inhabit a wide range of altitudes, there was no correlation between P50 and native altitude. Our tentative conclusion from these data and data presented elsewhere is that deer mouse populations do show genetic adaptations to high altitude. However, because of gene exchange between populations, the genetic characteristics of a population reflect the average altitude over a relatively broad geographic area.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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