Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 176, Issue 6, pp 535–545 | Cite as

Ontogeny of total body oxygen stores and aerobic dive potential in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus)

  • Julie P. Richmond
  • Jennifer M. Burns
  • Lorrie D. Rea
Original Paper


Two key factors influence the diving and hence foraging ability of marine mammals: increased oxygen stores prolong aerobic metabolism and decreased metabolism slows rate of fuel consumption. In young animals, foraging ability may be physiologically limited due to low total body oxygen stores and high mass specific metabolic rates. To examine the development of dive physiology in Steller sea lions, total body oxygen stores were measured in animals from 1 to 29 months of age and used to estimate aerobic dive limit (ADL). Blood oxygen stores were determined by measuring hematocrit, hemoglobin, and plasma volume, while muscle oxygen stores were determined by measuring myoglobin concentration and total muscle mass. Around 2 years of age, juveniles attained mass specific total body oxygen stores that were similar to those of adult females; however, their estimated ADL remained less than that of adults, most likely due to their smaller size and higher mass specific metabolic rates. These findings indicate that juvenile Steller sea lion oxygen stores remain immature for more than a year, and therefore may constrain dive behavior during the transition to nutritional independence.


Aerobic dive limit Development Oxygen stores Pinniped Steller sea lion 



Aerobic dive limit


Basal metabolic rate


Blood volume


Calculated aerobic dive limit


Diving lactate threshold


Diving metabolic rate








Red blood cell


Resting metabolic rate


Plasma volume



This research was made possible through funds provided by CIFAR (NA17RJ1224) and co-operative agreement with NOAA and ADFG (NA17FX1079). All research conducted under Marine Mammal Protection Act Permit: no. 358-1564 (ADFG), no. 782-1532 (NMML), and 481-1623 (LGL). Protocols were reviewed and approved by Institutional Animal Care and Use committees at UAA (no. 2002Burns02, 2003Burns06) and ADFG DWC (03-2002). This work would not be possible without the help of numerous people from the past and present Steller sea lion research teams of ADFG and NMML. We would like to thank M. Castellini and R. Davis for the use of unpublished data, D. Pfeiffer, S. Zinn and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on the manuscript, and C. Clark for help with the laboratory analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie P. Richmond
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jennifer M. Burns
    • 1
  • Lorrie D. Rea
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Alaska AnchorageAnchorageUSA
  2. 2.Alaska Department of Fish and GameAnchorageUSA
  3. 3.University of ConnecticutDepartment of Animal ScienceStorrsUSA

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