Project Information
The Molecular Signals that Regulate the Ontogeny of Aerobic Capacity, Lipid Metabolism and Elevated Myoglobin Concentrations in the Skeletal Muscles of Weddell Seals
During the past three decades, intensive field studies have revealed much about the
behavior, physiology, life history, and population dynamics of the Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddelli) population of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. These animals are marine predators that are highly adapted for an aquatic life in shore-fast and pack ice habitats. They must locate and capture sparsely distributed under the ice. Most of what is known about their diving behavior is based on studies of adult animals with little known about the development or the genetic controls of diving behavior of young animals. The goal of this project is to examine the temporal development of aerobic capacity, lipid metabolism and oxygen stores in the skeletal muscles of young Weddell seals and to determine which aspects of the cellular environment are important in the regulation of these adaptations during maturation. This project builds on past results to investigate the molecular controls that underlie the development of these adaptations. The first objective is to further characterize the ontogenetic changes in muscle aerobic capacity, lipid metabolism and myoglobin concentration and distribution using enzymatic, immuno-histochemical and myoglobin assays in newly weaned, subadult, and adult seals. The second objective is to determine the molecular controls that regulate these changes in aerobic capacity, fiber type distribution and myoglobin in skeletal muscles during maturation. Through subtractive hybridization and subsequent analysis, differences in mRNA populations in the swimming muscles of the different age classes of Weddell seals will be determined. These techniques will allow for the identification of the proteins and transcription factors that influence the ontogenetic changes in myoglobin concentration, fiber type distribution and aerobic capacity. These results will increase our
understanding of both the ontogeny and molecular mechanisms by which young seals acquire the physiological capabilities to make deep (up to 700 m) and long aerobic dives (ca 20 min). This study will advance knowledge of the molecular regulation for the
adaptations that enable active skeletal muscle to function under hypoxic conditions; this has a broader application for human medicine especially in regards to cardiac and pulmonary disease. Additional broader impacts include the participation of underrepresented scientists and a continuation of a website in collaboration
with the Science Teachers Access to Resources at Southwestern University (STARS Program) which involves weekly updates about research efforts during the field season, weekly questions/answer session involving students and teachers, and updates on research results throughout the year.
Person Role
Kanatous, Shane Investigator
Lyons, W. Berry Co-Investigator
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 0634682
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
1 (processed data)
Platforms and Instruments

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