The penguin initially carries sufficient oxygen in three stores – the blood, lungs and myoglobin in muscle – to sustain aerobic metabolism. However, around 5.6 minutes after leaving the surface, lactate begins appearing in the penguin's blood and the bird crosses the so-called 'aerobic dive limit', switching to anaerobic metabolism in some tissues. So what triggers this transition?
Cassondra Williams from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography explains that the animals were thought to cross the aerobic dive limit when one of their three oxygen stores became exhausted. However, when Paul Ponganis measured oxygen levels in the blood and lungs of penguins after long dives, the animals had oxygen to spare. That only left the muscle as the potential trigger.
Williams explains that diving animals were thought to isolate their muscle from the circulatory system, leaving oxygen stored in the tissue as its only source of aerobic metabolism while submerged and forcing it to switch to anaerobic respiration once the supply was exhausted. So, she and Ponganis teamed up with Jessica Meir to travel to Antarctica to measure muscle oxygen levels in diving emperor penguin muscles and they publish their discovery that depleted muscle oxygen supplies trigger the aerobic dive limit in The Journal of Experimental Biology at http://jeb.biologists.org/content/214/11/1802.abstract.
However, before their departure, Williams had to design a near-infrared spectrophotometer to record the penguins' muscle oxygen stores as they dived in the wild. After two trying years of technical development and testing, Williams was able to travel south with her colleagues to surgically implant the spectrophotometers in the pectoralis muscles of emperor penguins. They also attached time–depth recorders to the animals' backs to track their dive profiles. Finally, the team ensured that the animals would return with their precious equipment by drilling an isolated hole in the sea ice – to which the penguins were guaranteed to return – before releasing the implanted animals to go foraging for a day or two.
After successfully retrieving all of the spectrophotometers and dive recorders and returning the penguins to their colony, Williams began analysing the data and found that the penguins had been actively foraging beneath the ice. Of the 50 dives that Williams successfully recorded, 31 exceeded the emperor penguin's calculated dive limit.
Next, Williams plotted the muscle oxygen profiles over the course of each dive and identified two distinct patterns. In the first, the oxygen levels fell continually, approaching zero around the point when the birds crossed the aerobic dive limit. Williams says, 'This profile certainly supports the hypothesis that muscle oxygen depletion is the trigger of the aerobic dive limit.'
However, when the team saw the second pattern, they were surprised that, after initially falling, the oxygen levels plateaued for several minutes before falling again to almost zero. They realised that blood must be flowing into the muscle to replenish the oxygen supply during the middle phase of the dive, delaying the onset of the aerobic dive limit.
Finally, having confirmed that the dive muscles are the source of the aerobic dive limit, Williams calculated the muscle oxygen consumption rate for dives with the first oxygen depletion pattern and was amazed to see that it was only 12.4ml of oxygen per kg of muscle per minute: 1/10th the value calculated for penguins swimming in an artificial flume and only 2 times their resting metabolic rate. 'I think this metabolic rate is impressive. You can see how hard they are working underwater but they are efficient swimmers and very hydrodynamic,' says Williams.
IF REPORTING ON THIS STORY, PLEASE MENTION THE JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BIOLOGY AS THE SOURCE AND, IF REPORTING ONLINE, PLEASE CARRY A LINK TO: http://jeb.biologists.org
REFERENCE: Williams, C. L., Meir, J. U. and Ponganis, P. J. (2011). What triggers the aerobic dive limit? Patterns of muscle oxygen depletion during dives of emperor penguins. J. Exp. Biol. 214, 1802-1812.
This article is posted on this site to give advance access to other authorised media who may wish to report on this story. Full attribution is required, and if reporting online a link to jeb.biologists.com is also required. The story posted here is COPYRIGHTED. Therefore advance permission is required before any and every reproduction of each article in full. PLEASE CONTACT email@example.com
Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences