Breathing in thin air: Acclimatization to altitude in ducks

Frank L. Powell, Hashim Shams, Steven C. Hempleman, Gordon S. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


We measured ventilation (V̇I) and arterial blood gases in Pekin ducks during acclimatization to 3800 m altitude for 1-90 days. Four experimental series were conducted over 4 years using both natural altitude and a hypobaric chamber. PaCO2 decreased to 3.5 Torr, relative to the value measured during acute hypoxia after 1day and remained at this level for up to 90 days. However, PaO2 did not increase. Arterial pH showed an unexpected metabolic alkalosis during the first hours at altitude but after 3 days, a metabolic acidosis partially compensated the respiratory alkalosis and pHa was constant thereafter. When normoxia was restored after hypoxia, PaCO2 was 5.5 Torr less than the original normoxic control value, but PaO2 was not increased. V̇I showed variable changes during acclimatization but if metabolic rate was constant in our study, as reported by others, then effective parabronchial V̇(V̇P) increased during acclimatization. Increased V̇P tends to restore PaO2 toward normoxic levels and decreases adverse effects of gas exchange limitation, which apparently increased during acclimatization in ducks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-235
Number of pages11
JournalRespiratory Physiology and Neurobiology
Issue number2-3 SPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - Dec 15 2004


  • Acid-base balance, hypoxia
  • Altitude, ventilatory acclimatization
  • Birds, duck
  • Hypoxia, altitude
  • Methods, plethysmography
  • Ventilation, hypoxic response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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