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Emperor penguin air sac oxygen

Cite this dataset

Ponganis, Paul et al. (2020). Emperor penguin air sac oxygen [Dataset]. Dryad.


Some marine birds and mammals can perform dives of extraordinary duration and depth. Such dive performance is dependent on many factors, including total body oxygen (O2) stores. For diving penguins, the respiratory system (air sacs and lungs) constitutes 30-50% of the total body O2 store. To better understand the role and mechanism of parabronchial ventilation and O2 utilization in penguins both on the surface and during the dive, we examined air sac partial pressures of O2 (PO2) in emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) equipped with backpack PO2 recorders. Cervical air sac PO2s at rest were lower than in other birds, while the cervical air sac to posterior thoracic air sac PO2 difference was larger. Pre-dive cervical air sac PO2s were often greater than those at rest, but had a wide range and were not significantly different from those at rest. The maximum respiratory O2 store and total body O2 stores calculated with representative anterior and posterior air sac PO2 data did not differ from prior estimates. The mean calculated anterior air sac O2 depletion rate for dives up to 11 min was approximately one-tenth that of the posterior air sacs.  Low cervical air sac PO2s at rest may be secondary to a low ratio of parabronchial ventilation to parabronchial blood O2 extraction. During dives, overlap of simultaneously recorded cervical and posterior thoracic air sac PO2 profiles supported the concept of maintenance of parabronchial ventilation during a dive by air movement through the lungs.


Data set was collected at a research camp in Antarctica at which emperor penguins voluntarily dove beneath the sea ice to forage.  While under anesthesia, birds were equipped withmicrocpocessor-based backpack recorders to collect data on depth, wing stroke rate (via accelerometry), and air sac oxygen levels (with an indwellling oxygen electrode).  Birds were allowed to dive over a one to two-day period after overnight recovery from anesthesia.  Devices were removed under anesthesia.  The birds were released back to to sea at the ice edge.

Data were downloaded into computers and analyzed with excel software to assemble the csv files in this repository.  These data files were then analyzed with custom programs for the anlayses and graphs detailed in the manuscript.  These files are the basis for all the analyses.

Usage notes

These files do not have any missing values.  The data sets are ready for export or copy into any analysis program.


National Science Foundation, Award: 1643532