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Diving physiology of Antarctic seals Nov. 16

November 13, 2009

You can gain a better understanding of your own cardiovascular system through the research CSU Biology Professor Shane Kanatous is conducting. Kanatous is studying the physiology of the Antarctic Weddell seal and its amazing ability to exercise deep under water without the need to take a breath.

Monday, Nov. 16, 7 p.m.
Ben Delatour room
Fort Collins Main Library
201 Peterson Street 

What unique adaptations allow young Weddell seal pups to develop into elite divers? The presentation, 'How do you exercise while holding your breath? The diving physiology of Antarctic seals," will be given on Monday, Nov. 16 as part of the Fall 2009 Antarctic Lecture Series. The lecture is being sponsored by CSU's School of Global Environmental Sustainability.  

Colorado State Biology Professor Shane B. Kanatous will discuss his research into how the heart and skeletal muscles of seals adapt so that they have an increased aerobic capacity and enhanced oxygen storage.

Kanatous' research into the molecular changes that take place in seals as they adapt to long dives may be used for therapeutic applications for humans with heart and lung disease.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

In-field research

Shane Kanatous, Ph.D., Colorado State University Department of Biology.

Shane Kanatous and his research team conducted the field studies for this research at McMurdo Station in Antarctica in 2005 and 2006. They investigated the adaptations of the heart and skeletal muscles of Weddell seals that prevent them from experiencing the harmful effects of low oxygen levels during long hunting dives. 

Extraordinary creatures

At about 3 weeks, Weddell seals learn to swim and at about 5-6 weeks they are weaned and on their own. A Weddell seal can dive to a depth of about 2,000 feet and can hold its breath for more than an hour.

Explorer, adventurer, scientist

Kanatous is sometimes asked how a kid from New York City became interested in marine biology and physiology.

"As a child, I remember watching The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and being fascinated by the ocean and its marine life. From there, my love of the marine world continued to grow as I read all of Cousteau's books and anything else I could about the ocean. Since my days in grammar school, I wanted to be an oceanographer/marine biologist."

Shane is now an assistant professor of cell and molecular biology at Colorado State. His current and future research builds on his studies of air-breathing diving vertebrates to investigate the development of the adaptations these creatures make and the genetic control of their development. 

Contact: Uffe N. Nielsen
Phone: (970) 491-1964