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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1995 Oct;79(4):1148-55.

Myoglobin saturation in free-diving Weddell seals.

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Department of Anesthesia, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114, USA.


Although the consumption of myoglobin-bound O2 (MbO2) stores in seal muscles has been demonstrated in seal muscles during laboratory simulations of diving, this may not be a feature of normal field diving in which measurements of heart rate and lactate production show marked differences from the profound diving response induced by forced immersion. To evaluate the consumption of muscle MbO2 stores during unrestrained diving, we developed a submersible dual-wavelength laser near-infrared spectrophotometer capable of measuring MbO2 saturation in swimming muscle. The probe was implanted on the surface of the latissimus dorsi of five subadult male Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddelli) released into a captive breathing hole near Ross Island, Antarctica. Four seals had a monotonic decline of muscle O2 saturation during free diving to depths up to 300 m with median slopes of -5.12 +/- 4.37 and -2.54 +/- 1.95%/min for dives lasting < 17 and > 17 min, respectively. There was no correlation between the power consumed by swimming and the desaturation rate. Two seals had occasional partial muscle resaturations late in dives, indicating transfer of O2 from circulating blood to muscle myoglobin. Weddell seals partially consume their MbO2 stores during unrestrained free diving.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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