Resistances to asphyxia

Robert Elsner

in Diving Seals and Meditating Yogis

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2015 | ISBN: 9780226246710
Published online January 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780226247045 | DOI:
Resistances to asphyxia

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  • Animal Behaviour and Behavioural Ecology


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This chapter examines asphyxial tolerance in mammals. The seal's characteristic adaptations for long breath-holding provide a model of mammalian asphyxial endurance obviously greater than that of its terrestrial relatives. Tolerance of most mammals to the threat of arrested breathing is especially noticeable in the mammalian fetus and newborn when they are threatened with disrupted gas exchange. The near-term mammalian fetus must endure two challenges to its respiration that would be traumatic to the adult animal: intrauterine hypoxia and birth asphyxia. Blood oxygen tension of the fetal circulation is lower than the maternal value, situated as it is at the low end of the respiratory flow from atmosphere to fetus. Accordingly, arterial blood oxygen delivered to the fetus declines to values equivalent to those of high-altitude exposure. The resulting fetal reaction is one of adaptation to hypoxia as well as resistance to asphyxia.

Keywords: mammalian asphyxial endurance; mammalian fetus; intrauterine hypoxia; birth asphyxia

Chapter.  4197 words. 

Subjects: Animal Behaviour and Behavioural Ecology

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