Convective oxygen transport and tissue oxygen consumption in Weddell seals during aerobic dives
Journal of Experimental Biology
Unlike their terrestrial counterparts, marine mammals stop breathing and reduce their convective oxygen transport while performing activities (e.g. foraging, courtship, aggressive interactions, predator avoidance and migration) that require sustained power output during submergence. Since most voluntary dives are believed to remain aerobic, the goal of this study was to examine the potential importance of the dive response in optimizing the use of blood and muscle oxygen stores during dives
... es during dives involving different levels of muscular exertion. To accomplish this, we designed a numerical model based on Fick's principle that integrated cardiac output (Vb), regional blood flow, convective oxygen transport (Q(O2)), muscle oxymyoglobin desaturation and regional rates of oxygen consumption (VO2). The model quantified how the optimal matching or mismatching of QO2 to VO2 affected the aerobic dive limit (ADL). We chose an adult Weddell seal Leptonycotes weddellii on which to base our model because of available data on the diving physiology and metabolism of this species. The results show that the use of blood and muscle oxygen stores must be completed at the same time to maximize the ADL for each level of VO2. This is achieved by adjusting Vb (range 19-94 % of resting levels) and muscle QO2 according to the rate of muscle oxygen consumption (VMO2). At higher values of VMO2, Vb and muscle perfusion must increase to maintain an appropriate QO2/VO2 ratio so that available blood and muscle oxygen stores are depleted at the same time. Although the dive response does not sequester blood oxygen exclusively for brain and heart metabolism during aerobic dives, as it does during forced submersion, a reduction in Vb and muscle perfusion below resting levels is necessary to maximize the ADL over the range of diving VO2 (approximately 2-9 ml O2 min-1 kg-1). Despite the reduction in Vb, convective oxygen transport is adequate to maintain aerobic metabolism and normal function in the splanchnic organs, kidneys and other peripheral tissues. As a result, physiological homeostasis is maintained throughout the dive. The model shows that the cardiovascular adjustments known as the dive response enable the diving seal to balance the conflicting metabolic demands of (1) optimizing the distribution and use of blood and muscle oxygen stores to maximize the ADL over the normal range of diving VO2 and (2) ensuring that active muscle receives adequate oxygen as VMO2 increases.