Alligator Metabolism Studies on Chemical Reactions in Vivo by Roland A. Coulson, Thomas Hernandez

By Roland A. Coulson, Thomas Hernandez

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Adaptation to prolonged diving has been the object of much study for the past 20 years with most of the emphasis on mammals such as the seal. Their muscles receive considerable benefit from a high myoglobin content, and the circulatory system is such as to reduce flow to the muscles while maintaining it to the brain and viscera. The alligator seems to have the same circulatory response although one might ques­ tion the need for it. Glycolysis, of course, will be a source of energy for much of the body and this pro­ cess will reduce the need for depriving the tiny brain of what little 0 2 was in the blood during the dive.

Perhaps this seems a waste­ ful means of construction in that larger amounts of enzymes would be synthesized than a big reptile could ever use. As will be shown, this is not true, but even if it were, such a scheme does have the merit of simpli­ city as it would allow for a considerable amount of standardization throughout the animal kingdom. There are differences between the cells of the smal­ lest mammals and the largest, and much has been made of them, but in light of a 1000-fold range in reaction rates (metabolic rates) doubling or halving mitochondrial content of a cell is not that impressive a change.

In the alligator, the blood flow would be less, less Na would enter the cell, and less energy would be made avail­ able for its expulsion, but all systems would be in balance. The percentage cost would be the same then 36 ROLAND A. COULSON and THOMAS HERNANDEZ in all animals at all temperatures and at all levels of physical activity. The actual rate of the reaction would be governed by the flow rate constant. Metabolic rate and protein turnover From the days of the pioneering isotope experi­ ments of Shoenheimer and Rittenberg it has been accepted that all of the body constituents, including structural components, are in a continuous state of flux with fats releasing fatty acids only to reincorpor­ ate them back into fats, proteins being constantly hydrolyzed and re-synthesized, and others releasing amino acids from the chain in exchange with identical amino acids administered exogeneously.

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