Development of myoglobin concentration and acid buffering capacity in harp (Pagophilus groenlandicus) and hooded (Cystophora cristata) seals from birth to maturity

  • Keri C. LestykEmail author
  • L. P. Folkow
  • A. S. Blix
  • M. O. Hammill
  • J. M. Burns
Original Paper


Pinnipeds rely on muscle oxygen stores to help support aerobic diving, therefore muscle maturation may influence the behavioral ecology of young pinnipeds. To investigate the pattern of muscle development, myoglobin concentration ([Mb]) and acid buffering ability (β) was measured in ten muscles from 23 harp and 40 hooded seals of various ages. Adult [Mb] ranged from 28–97 to 35–104 mg g tissue−1 in harp and hooded seals, respectively, with values increasing from the cervical, non-swimming muscles to the main swimming muscles of the lumbar region. Neonatal and weaned pup muscles exhibited lower (~30% adult values) and less variable [Mb] across the body than adults. In contrast, adult β showed little regional variation (60–90 slykes), while high pup values (~75% adult values) indicate significant in utero development. These findings suggest that intra-uterine conditions are sufficiently hypoxic to stimulate prenatal β development, but that [Mb] development requires additional postnatal signal such as exercise, and/or growth factors. However, because of limited development in both β and [Mb] during the nursing period, pups are weaned with muscles with lower aerobic and anaerobic capacities than those of adults.


Myoglobin Acid buffering Muscle development Harp seal Hooded seal 



Acid buffering capacity, slykes


Total body acid buffering capacity


Acid buffering capacity for the longissimus dorsi


Acid buffering capacity for the pectoralis


Longissimus dorsi


Muscle myoglobin, mg g wet tissue−1


Total body myoglobin concentration


Myoglobin concentration for the longissimus dorsi


Myoglobin concentration for the pectoralis




Postweaning fast



We thank the Captain and crew of R/V Jan Mayen, and Mrs. Monica Jenstad for their assistance in the field in Norway. In Canada, we thank the Canadian Coast Guard helicopter pilots Harrison McRae and Bruce Kendall, the Château Madelinot and Roger Simon for providing laboratory space, and Dr. Lena Measures, Stephan Pillet, and Sam Turgeon for assistance with sample processing and analysis. Animal capture and experimental protocols were conducted under permit from the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries, the Norwegian National Animal Research Authority (NARA), the University of California Chancellor’s Committee on Animal Research, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada and the University of Alaska Anchorage Institutional Animal Care and Use Permits. All samples were imported into the United States under Marine Mammal permits 782-1399 and 782-1694-02. This study was financed in part by contributions from Alaska EPSCoR (NSF EPS-0346770), the Institute of Marine Science, University of California Santa Cruz, the Roald Amundsen Center for Arctic Research, University of Tromsø, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keri C. Lestyk
    • 1
    Email author
  • L. P. Folkow
    • 2
  • A. S. Blix
    • 2
  • M. O. Hammill
    • 3
  • J. M. Burns
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Alaska AnchorageAnchorageUSA
  2. 2.Department of Arctic Biology, Institute of Medical BiologyUniversity of TromsøTromsøNorway
  3. 3.Maurice Lamontagne Institute, Fisheries and Oceans CanadaMont-JoliCanada

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