PSL1086H - Comparative Systems Approach to Diving Physiology

Course Coordinator:

C. Wittnich


This specialized course will compare and contrast the physiologic and anatomical adaptations experienced by the different species of marine mammals in contrast to humans. In order to accomplish this the following areas will be explored in depth using key published scientific articles: physiologic and anatomic adaptations of the skeleton/musculature that facilitates swimming, overview of diving and its effects in humans; diving and marine mammals - what makes them so special; overview of human vs marine mammal cardiac and vascular physiology; their structural adaptations to facilitate diving; comparative lung physiology adapted to diving; blood and tissue oxygen carrying capacity; feeding & reproduction; renal homeostasis during diving, role of the neuro-endocrine system and comparative deep diving systemic effects. Where relevant the application of this knowledge to human health issues will also be discussed.

General course topics will include:

  • Human Diving Principals

  • Overview of Systems Responses to Diving

  • Cardiovascular Modification and Responses to Diving

  • ADL vs cADL as a Determinant of all Diving Behaviors

  • Adaptations of the Respiratory System and Role in Diving

  • Skeletal Muscle Metabolic Role in Successful Diving

  • Apply Theoretical Diving Physiology

  • Mechanisms for Pathologies Resulting from Diving

  • Physiological Impact of Feeding and Reproduction on Diving


  • 20% - Debates

  •   5% - Seminar participation

  • 10% - Mini weekly assignments for journal club *

  •   5% - Essay Outline  

  • 20% - Oral Presentation on Essay

  • 40% - Final Essay-subject dealing with one of the lecture topics     

* for 2021 this mark will be evenly redistributed to essay outline and oral presentation           

Last updated: 7-JUNE-2021