PMID: 9678Jul 1, 1976

Aquatic life at high altitude: respiratory adaptations in the Lake Titicaca frog, Telmatobius culeus

Respiration Physiology
V H HutchisonG Engbretson


Telmatobius culeus has a combination of behavioral, morphological and physiological adaptations which allows an aquatic life in cool (10 degrees C) O2-saturated (at 100 mm Hg) waters at high altitude (3812 m). The skin surgace area is increased by pronounced folds and the cutaneous capillaries penetrate to the outer layers of the skin. The erythrocyte volume (394 mu3) is the smallest reported for amphibians. The P50 (15.6 at ph 7.65 and 10 degrees C) is the lowest, and the erythrocyte count (729 - 103/mm3) the highest for an anuran. The O2 capacity (11.7 vol%), hemoglobin (8.1 g/100 ml), hemoglobin concentration (0.281 pg/mu3) and hematocrit (27.9%) measured at 18 degrees C and 3800 m are all elevated in comparison with most amphibians. The O2 dissociation curve is sigmoid (n = 2), the Bohr factor is small (deltalog P50/deltapH = -0.30) and the buffering capacity (-8.9 m M HCO3 - 1-1) is typical for an aquatic amphibian. The metabolic rate (14.1 mul -g-1-h-u) is the lowest reported for a frog and among amphibians only the giant salamanders (Amphiuma, Necturus and Siren) have lower values. If prevent from surfacing in hypoxic waters, the frogs ventilate the skin by "bobbing" behavior; if allowed to surface, they will ventilate t...Continue Reading


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