This thesis explored several aspects of the hormonal and cardiovascular physiology in pinnipeds (seals and sea lions). Plasma concentrations of the vasoactive hormones angiotensin II (Ang II), arginine vasopressin (AVP, the antidiuretic hormone) and atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) were studied in six species of seals and sea lions. Resting levels of AVP, ANP and Ang II in these pinnipeds were similar to those reported for other vertebrate species, including humans. Age-related differences were found in the concentrations of these hormones in seals and sea lions. Geographic differences in hormone concentrations were found in Steller sea lions and harbor seals. To address the endocrine and cardiovascular responses to breath-holding (apnea) in marine mammals, heart rates and plasma levels of Ang II, AVP and ANP were studied in Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) and northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) pups during periods of spontaneous breathing (eupnea) and apnea. Ang II, AVP, and ANP, as well as the autonomic nervous system, were found to contribute differently to the control of heart rate in seal pups, depending whether the respiratory system was in eupnea or apnea. Because of changes in seals of different ages, it appeared that the integration of cardiorespiratory and hormonal function is not fully mature at birth, but develops post-natally, probably simultaneously to the development of diving behavior. These studies also suggested that the factors affecting cardiorespiratory function, including hormones, may differ by species. Plasma concentrations of AVP, ANP and Ang II were measured during food limitation and fasting in captive Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) and compared to levels in free-ranging conspecifics. The results suggest that Steller sea lions have a remarkable capacity to maintain hydrosmotic and endocrine balance during short-term food limitation and fasting. Hormonal studies did not provide conclusive evidence that Steller sea lions in Alaskan waters are currently affected by long-term food limitation.
Thesis (Ph.D.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1997
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