A message from nature to muskrats: 'Dont chill out'

sitivity to temperature may serve to maintain the unloading of oxygen to cooled tissues during diving.

The semi-aquatic muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) is an excellent model for investigating the adaptive hypothermia hypothesis, since it routinely cools during voluntary swimming and diving and apparently does not engage thermogenic pathways underwater. Both heart rate and Tb of muskrats decline during voluntary diving, and active rewarming via brown adipose tissue (BAT) does not appear to occur until surfacing. Given these observations, the researchers hypothesized that hypothermia in diving muskrats may enhance their dive performance by lowering diving metabolic rate.

The authors of Does Natural Hypothermia Improve the Dive Performance of Muskrats? are Allyson G. Hindle, Robert W. Senkiw, and Robert A. MacArthur, all from the Department of Zoology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba. They will present their findings at The Power of Comparative Physiology: Evolution, Integration and Application, an American Physiological Society (APS) meeting scheduled for August 24-28, 2002 at the Town & Country Hotel, San Diego, CA. To learn more about the program and presentations, log on to: http://www.the-aps.org/meetings/aps/san_diego/home.htm

Based on the premise that DMR is depressed with hypothermia, the research team predicted a parallel reduction in diving heart rate. Beat-to-beat changes in heart rate during submergence were also analyzed to determine if the pattern of bradycardia normally observed during diving is affected by hypothermia. To validate metabolic inferences derived from telemetered heart rate, concurrent measurements of (oxygen consumption) and heart rate were gathered for muskrats engaged in varying intensities of diving and surface activities.


Muskrats were surgically implanted with either temperature-sensitive

Contact: Donna Krupa
American Physiological Society

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