HEART RATE AND ELECTROCARDIOGRAM CHARACTERISTICS OF A YOUNG CALIFORNIA GRAY WHALE (ESCHRICHTIUS ROBUSTUS)1

Authors


  • 1

    Dedicated to Ken Norris, friend, mentor, and a great natural historian, who “never met a statistic he liked.”

Abstract

Electrocardiogram (ECG) analyses of Holter monitor recordings from a young California gray whale were performed to determine ECG waveform characteristics, evaluate the heart rate pattern for sinus arrhythmia, obtain resting heart rates at known body masses as the whale increased in size, and compare those heart rates with predicted heart rates from allometric equations. The PR and QRS intervals (475 ± 35 msec, 208 ± 24 msec, respectively, n= 20) support the concept (Meijler et al. 1992) that atrioventricular transmission and ventricular excitation times do not increase linearly in very large mammals. A sinus arrhythmia pattern at rest (apneic heart rates of 15–25 beats per min [bpm] and eupneic heart rates of 34–40 bpm) is consistent with a relative eupneic tachycardia and apneic bradycardia during diving activity of whales. The heart rate-body mass measurements (35–24 bpm at body masses of 3,591-8,200 kg) in this study (1) extend the range of allometric heart rate and body mass data in mammals a full order of magnitude, to almost 10,000 kg, (2) support the use of allometric equations (based primarily on mammals <1,000 kg in body mass) in estimating resting heart rates in whales, and (3) demonstrate that previously reported heart rates in large whales are not representative of resting heart rate, probably secondary to circumstances during measurement.

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