High aerobic capacities in the skeletal muscles of pinnipeds: adaptations to diving hypoxia Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • The objective was to assess the aerobic capacity of skeletal muscles in pinnipeds. Samples of swimming and nonswimming muscles were collected from Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus, n = 27), Northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus, n = 5), and harbor seals (Phoca vitulina, n = 37) by using a needle biopsy technique. Samples were either immediately fixed in 2% glutaraldehyde or frozen in liquid nitrogen. The volume density of mitochondria, myoglobin concentration, citrate synthase activity, and beta-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase was determined for all samples. The swimming muscles of seals had an average total mitochondrial volume density per volume of fiber of 9.7%. The swimming muscles of sea lions and fur seals had average mitochondrial volume densities of 6.2 and 8.8%, respectively. These values were 1.7- to 2.0-fold greater than in the nonswimming muscles. Myoglobin concentration, citrate synthase activity, and beta-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase were 1.1- to 2. 3-fold greater in the swimming vs. nonswimming muscles. The swimming muscles of pinnipeds appear to be adapted for aerobic lipid metabolism under the hypoxic conditions that occur during diving.

author list (cited authors)

  • Kanatous, S. B., DiMichele, L. V., Cowan, D. F., & Davis, R. W.

citation count

  • 63

publication date

  • April 1999