Resting metabolic rate and lung function in wild offshore common bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, near Bermuda

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  • Andreas Fahlman, Fundación Oceanogràfic, Department of Life Sciences, Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi, TX, USA., Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Spain
  • Katherine McHugh, Chicago Zoological Society, United States
  • Jason Allen, Chicago Zoological Society, United States
  • Aaron Barleycorn, Chicago Zoological Society, United States
  • Austin Allen, Duke University Marine Lab, United States
  • Jay Sweeney, Dolphin Quest, United States
  • Rae Stone, Dolphin Quest, United States
  • Robyn Faulkner Trainor, Dolphin Quest, United States
  • Guy Bedford, Wildlife Consulting Service, Currumbin, QLD, United States
  • Michael J. Moore, Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, United States
  • Frants Havmand Jensen
  • ,
  • Randall Wells, Chicago Zoological Society, United States

Diving mammals have evolved a suite of physiological adaptations to manage respiratory gases during extended breath-hold dives. To test the hypothesis that offshore bottlenose dolphins have evolved physiological adaptations to improve their ability for extended deep dives and as protection for lung barotrauma, we investigated the lung function and respiratory physiology of four wild common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) near the island of Bermuda. We measured blood hematocrit (Hct, %), resting metabolic rate (RMR, l O 2 · min -1), tidal volume (V T, l), respiratory frequency (f R, breaths · min -1), respiratory flow (l · min -1), and dynamic lung compliance (C L, l · cmH 2O -1) in air and in water, and compared measurements with published results from coastal, shallow-diving dolphins. We found that offshore dolphins had greater Hct (56 ± 2%) compared to shallow-diving bottlenose dolphins (range: 30-49%), thus resulting in a greater O 2 storage capacity and longer aerobic diving duration. Contrary to our hypothesis, the specific C L (sC L, 0.30 ± 0.12 cmH 2O -1) was not different between populations. Neither the mass-specific RMR (3.0 ± 1.7 ml O 2 · min -1 · kg -1) nor V T (23.0 ± 3.7 ml · kg -1) were different from coastal ecotype bottlenose dolphins, both in the wild and under managed care, suggesting that deep-diving dolphins do not have metabolic or respiratory adaptations that differ from the shallow-diving ecotypes. The lack of respiratory adaptations for deep diving further support the recently developed hypothesis that gas management in cetaceans is not entirely passive but governed by alteration in the ventilation-perfusion matching, which allows for selective gas exchange to protect against diving related problems such as decompression sickness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number886
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • Diving physiology, Energetics, Field metabolic rate, Lung mechanics, Marine mammals, Minimum air volume, Spirometry, Total lung capacity, SEA LIONS, PORPOISE, field metabolic rate, MECHANICS, ENERGY-EXPENDITURE, CETACEANS, RESPIRATION, diving physiology, GAS-EXCHANGE, energetics, minimum air volume, WHALES, marine mammals, MARINE MAMMALS, lung mechanics, spirometry, total lung capacity, MORPHOLOGY

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