Today was a pretty full agenda but I did get an opportunity to meet a young man who is living his dream as muscle physiologist studying marine mammals. I got to introduce Dr. Shane Kanatous, an Assistant Professor in the biology Department at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. As a youngster, Dr. Kanatous was influenced by Jacques Cousteau and his long running series that ran as National Geographic Specials on PBS. He was determined to become a oceanographer/ marine biologist and has studied across the country to achieve that dream.
His primary research animal is the Weddell Seal, a 400-600 Kg. penniped found in Antarctica. They have the remarkable ability to make deep, long dives in the search for food. Such dives last over 20 minutes to depths of as much a 2,000 ft. They can do so because of their unique distribution of mitochondria in their muscle tissue as well as their unique capillary distribution and use of myoglobin. Shane had us imagine ourselves driving to Wal-Mart, hyperventilating 5-6 times as we walked to the door, then exhaling all the air from our lungs and closing our eyes as we entered the store and pass the greeter on our way to pick up and purchase our groceries, not opening our eyes or breathing until we exit the store. Weddell Seals do that process 60-80 times a day as they dive in search of codfish and squid at depths that collapse their lungs.
You can follow Dr. Kanatous and his research through his Polar Science 2009 project. His presentation today was made possible by the American Physiological Society