, Volume 48, Issue 6, pp 570-575

Metabolic biochemistry and the making of a mesopelagic mammal

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Abstract

Large seals such as northern and southern elephant seals and Weddell seals are able to dive for startling duration and enormous depth. The current dive duration record is 120 minutes (recorded for the southern elephant seal); the current depth record is 1.5 km (recorded for the northern elephant seal). Equally striking is the widespread observation that these seals when at sea spend close to 90% of the time submerged and often at great depth. For practical purposes, these species can be viewed as true mesopelagic animals when they are at sea. A review of current knowledge indicates that low power output but high efficiency metabolic functions of skeletal muscles coupled with inherently low (and potentially further suppressible) metabolic rates constitute strategic biochemical components in the ‘making’ of a mesopelagic mammal.