Short Name:

The Aerobic Dive Limit: Oxygen Transport and Depletion in Emperor Penguins

The research will examine blood and muscle oxygen store depletion in relation to the documented aerobic dive limit (ADL, onset of post-dive blood lactate accumulation) in diving of emperor penguins. The intellectual merits of this proposal involve its evaluation of the physiological basis of the ADL concept. The ADL is probably the most commonly-used, but rarely measured, factor to interpret and model the behavior and foraging ecology of diving animals. Based on prior studies, and on recent investigations of respiratory and blood oxygen depletion during dives of emperor penguins, it is hypothesized that the ADL is a result of the depletion of myoglobin (Mb)-bound oxygen and increased glycolysis in the primary locomotory muscles. This project will accurately define the physiological mechanisms underlying the ADL through 1) evaluation of the rate and magnitude of muscle oxygen depletion during dives in relation to the previously measured ADL, 2) characterization of the hemoglobin-oxygen dissociation curve in blood of emperor penguins and comparison of that curve to those of other diving and non-diving species, 3) application of the emperor hemoglogin-oxygen dissociation curve to previously collected oxygen and hemoglobin data in order to estimate the rate and magnitude of blood oxygen depletion during dives, and 4) measurement of muscle phosphoocreatine and glycogen concentrations in order to estimate their potential contributions to muscle energy metabolism during diving. The project also continues the census and monitoring of the emperor colonies in the Ross Sea, which is especially important in light of both fisheries activity and the movement of iceberg B15-A. Broader impacts of the project include: 1) technological development of microprocessor-based, 'backpack' near-infrared spectrophotometer, which will be applicable not only to other species, but also to other fields (i.e., exercise physiology), 2) collaboration with the Department of Anesthesia at the U.S. Naval Hospital in San Diego in the training of anesthesia residents in research techniques, 3) the training and thesis research of two graduate students in these techniques and in Antarctic field research, and 4) a better understanding of the ADL concept and its use in the fields of diving behavior and physiology. In addition the annual census of emperor penguin colonies in the Ross Sea, in conjunction with the continued evaluation of previously developed remote cameras to monitor colony status, will form the basis of a new educational web site, and allow development of an educational outreach program to school children through SeaWorld of San Diego.

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