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Extreme bradycardia and tachycardia in the world's largest animal

TitleExtreme bradycardia and tachycardia in the world's largest animal
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsGoldbogen J.A, Cade D.E, Calambokidis J, Czapanskiy M.F, Fahlbusch J., Friedlaender A.S, Gough W.T, Kahane-Rapport S.R, Savoca M.S, Ponganis K.V, Ponganis P.J
Volume116
Pagination25329-25332
Date Published2019/12
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0027-8424
Accession NumberWOS:000502577500056
Keywordsblue whale; body-size; cardiac function; Dive response; Diving; Heart rate; heart-rate; mass; mechanics; scaling; Science & Technology - Other Topics; whale
Abstract

The biology of the blue whale has long fascinated physiologists because of the animal's extreme size. Despite high energetic demands from a large body, low mass-specific metabolic rates are likely powered by low heart rates. Diving bradycardia should slow blood oxygen depletion and enhance dive time available for foraging at depth. However, blue whales exhibit a high-cost feeding mechanism, lunge feeding, whereby large volumes of prey-laden water are intermittently engulfed and filtered during dives. This paradox of such a large, slowly beating heart and the high cost of lunge feeding represents a unique test of our understanding of cardiac function, hemodynamics, and physiological limits to body size. Here, we used an electrocardiogram (ECG)-depth recorder tag to measure blue whale heart rates during foraging dives as deep as 184 mand as long as 16.5 min. Heart rates during dives were typically 4 to 8 beats min(-1) (bpm) and as low as 2 bpm, while after-dive surface heart rates were 25 to 37 bpm, near the estimated maximum heart rate possible. Despite extreme bradycardia, we recorded a 2.5-fold increase above diving heart rate minima during the powered ascent phase of feeding lunges followed by a gradual decrease of heart rate during the prolonged glide as engulfed water is filtered. These heart rate dynamics explain the unique hemodynamic design in rorqual whales consisting of a large-diameter, highly compliant, elastic aortic arch that allows the aorta to accommodate blood ejected by the heart and maintain blood flow during the long and variable pauses between heartbeats.

DOI10.1073/pnas.1914273116
Student Publication: 
No
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