Metabolic Rate of Whales

From: Erich Hoyt (
Date: Thu Apr 05 2001 - 00:57:44 EDT

>From: "Basia Przydzial" <>
>Subject: whales metabolism
>Date: Mon, Apr 2, 2001, 12:10 PM

> Dear Dr. Hoyt
> I'm doing a research on whales, And I need to know a plausible method to
> determine a matabolic rate of a whale. I know I need to measure oxygen
> consumption, but could you tell me how this can be done? thank you. Barbara

Dear Barbara,

I have some leads for you, although I can't answer your question directly.

First try searching on the WhaleNet website. Go to:

and try the following key words and phrases:

metabolic, physiology, energy expediture, energy budget, energetics -- all
of which should contribute to a better understanding of marine mammal

In addition here are some references. Some of these scientists below have no
doubt measured or attempted to measure the metabolic rate of a whale,
dolphin or porpoises, so you would mainly need to look at the "materials and
methods" section of their paper to see how they did it. With any luck, this
will answer your question.

Brodie, P.F. 1975. Cetacean energetics, an overview of intraspecific size
variation. Ecology 56:152-161.

Yasui, W.Y. and D.E. Gaskin. 1986. Energy budget of a small cetacean, the
harbor porpoise, Phocoena phocoena. Ophelia 25:183-197.

Huntley, A.C., D.P. Costa, G.A. Worthy and M.A. Castellini
(eds.) Approaches to marine mammal energetics. Society for Marine
Mammalogy, special publication, Allen Press, Lawrence, Kansas.

Most references have to do with seals and research on animals in
captivity. However, the book, The biology of the harbor porpoise 1997.
DeSpil publishers, Woerden, The Netherlands. also had a paper on harbor
porpoise metabolism.

Also this may be helpful:

    Phocid and cetacean blueprints of muscle metabolism
AU: Author
    Hochachka, PW; Foreman, RA III
AF: Author Affiliation
    Dep. Zool., Univ. British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
SO: Source
    Canadian Journal of Zoology/Revue Canadien de Zoologie [CAN. J.
    ZOOL./REV. CAN. ZOOL.], vol. 71, no. 10, pp. 2089-2098, 1993
AB: Abstract
    Large seals, such as northern and southern elephant seals and
    Weddell seals, are able to dive for unexpected lengths of time and
    to enormous depth. The current dive-duration record is 120 min
    (recorded for the southern elephant seal); the current depth
    record is 1.5 km (recorded for the northern elephant seal).
    Equally striking is the widespread observation that these seals,
    when at sea, spend close to 90% of the time submerged and often at
    great depth. For practical purposes, these species can be viewed
    as true mesopelagic animals when they are at sea. Analysis of
    current knowledge indicates that enzyme adaptations in chronic
    hypobaric hypoxia are directed mainly towards up-regulation of
    metabolic efficiencies. Evidence that similar metabolic
    adjustments are utilized by seals was obtained by profiling the
    maximum enzyme activities of four phocid species (harbor seal,
    Weddell seal, crabeater seal, leopard seal) and one cetacean (fin
    whale). In the seals, the patterns obtained were strikingly
    similar to those of hypobaric hypoxia adaptations. The extensive
    enzyme data obtained on seals, however, showed notably different
    patterns from those found in whale muscles. The data from the
    large seals were consistent with the concept that low power output
    but high-efficiency metabolic functions of skeletal muscles
    coupled with inherently low (and potentially further suppressible)
    metabolic rates constitute strategic biochemical components in the
    design of a mesopelagic mammal.
LA: Language
SL: Summary Language
    English; French
PY: Publication Year
PT: Publication Type
    Journal Article
DE: Descriptors
    diving physiology; muscles; metabolism; enzymes; hypoxia;
    adaptations; Phocidae; Cetacea; marine mammals
ER: Environmental Regime
TR: ASFA Input Center Number
CL: Classification
    Q1 01376 Physiology, biochemistry, biophysics; O 1050 Vertebrates,
    Urochordates and Cephalochordates
SF: Subfile
    ASFA 1: Biological Sciences & Living Resources; Oceanic Abstracts
AN: Accession Number

Good luck!

Erich Hoyt

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