Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 188, Issue 6, pp 967–976 | Cite as

The effects of embryonic hypoxic programming on cardiovascular function and autonomic regulation in the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) at rest and during swimming

  • William JoyceEmail author
  • Tiffany E. Miller
  • Ruth M. Elsey
  • Tobias Wang
  • Dane A. CrossleyII
Original Paper


Reptilian embryos naturally experience fluctuating oxygen levels in ovo, and developmental hypoxia has been established to have long-term impacts on cardiovascular function in vertebrates. In the present study, we investigated the impact of developmental 21% (normoxia) and 10% O2 (hypoxia) on juvenile (4-year-old) American alligator cardiovascular function in animals at rest and during swimming. In both experimental groups, combined right aortic and right subclavian blood flow approximately doubled during swimming. Carotid blood flow increased during swimming in the hypoxia-programmed animals only, and both carotid and left aortic blood flow reached higher values in swimming hypoxic-programmed animals compared to the normoxic group. However, pulmonary blood flow, which increased two to threefold during swimming (in both groups), was higher in normoxic-programmed animals at both rest and swimming. The differences between programming groups were preserved after cholinergic blockade (atropine), but reduced by adrenergic receptor antagonists (propranolol and phentolamine). Propranolol and phentolamine also blunted the incremental increases in blood flows during swimming, which was especially clear in the hypoxia-programmed animals. Alteration in adrenergic control and relative cardiac size (which was increased in hypoxic-programmed alligators) may account for the differences between the experimental groups.


Developmental programming Exercise Alligator Cardiac function Cardiac shunting 



This work was supported by NSF CAREER award IBN IOS-0845741 to D.A.C.II. W.J. and T.W. were supported by an EliteForsk travel grant from the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science and The Danish Council for Independent Research/Natural Sciences. We are sincerely grateful to Brandt Smith for assistance during the post-mortem dissections. We also thank Jamie Adenuga for suggestions that aided flow probe maintenance.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoophysiologyAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Biological Sciences, Developmental Integrative Biology ClusterUniversity of North TexasDentonUSA
  3. 3.Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Rockefeller Wildlife RefugeGrand ChenierUSA
  4. 4.Aarhus Institute of Advanced StudiesAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark

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