At birth, the newborn fat-tailed dunnart relies on cutaneous gas exchange to meet metabolic demands, with continuous lung ventilation emerging several days later. We hypothesised that the delayed expression of lung ventilation (V-E) in these animals is in part due to a low responsiveness of the respiratory control system to blood gas perturbations. To address this hypothesis, we assessed the ventilatory and metabolic response to hypoxia (10% O₂) and hypercapnia (5% CO₂) using closed-system respirometry from birth to 23 days postpartum (P). Neonatal fat-tailed dunnarts displayed no significant hypoxic or hypercapnic ventilatory responses at any age. Regardless, significant hyperventilation through a suppression of metabolic rate (VO₂) was observed at birth in response to hypercapnia and in response to hypoxia at all ages, except P12. Therefore, reliance on cutaneous gas exchange during early life may be partially attributed to reduced chemosensitivity or a lack of central integration of chemosensitive afferent information. This may be in part due to the relative immaturity of this species at birth, compared with other mammals.
- neonatal development
Simpson, S. J., Fong, A. Y., Cummings, K. J., & Frappell, P. B. (2012). The ventilatory response to hypoxia and hypercapnia is absent in the neonatal fat-tailed dunnart. Journal of Experimental Biology, 215(24), 4242-4247. https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.072413