The blue-sheep, pika, and yak live in the Tibetan highlands at an altitude of 6,100 m and are typical mammals adapted to high-altitudes. These animals have a long history of habitation at high-altitudes and are considered to be "animals completely adapted to high-altitudes" because of their physiological and morphological traits that are well adapted to high-altitude environments. To evaluate the physiological characteristics of high-altitude adaptation in the blue-sheep, changes in the pulmonary hemodynamics during exposure to simulated-altitudes at 0, 2,300, and 4,500 m were examined by means of a climatic chamber in Qinghai Province, China (altitude 2,300 m). Seven blue-sheep inhabiting the mountains (3,000 m) of Qinghai Province, China, were compared with 5 pigs raised in the same area as controls. The primary items of measurement were the body weight (BW), systemic arterial pressure (Psa), pulmonary artery pressure (Ppa), hematocrit (Ht), left ventricular weight (LVW), right ventricular weight (RVW), and blood gas profile. The principal findings of this study are: (1) Ht, an index of right ventricular hypertrophy (RVW/LVW), and oxygen consumption (V˙O2) were significantly lower in the blue sheep compared with the pigs; (2) When the animals were exposed to simulated-altitudes at 0, 2,300, and 4,500 m, Ppa increased significantly in tandem with altitude elevation in both species, but the increases were significantly smaller in the blue-sheep; and (3) Ppa/Psa, an index of the right ventricular load, increased with the altitude in both species, but the increases were smaller in the blue sheep. From these observations, low Ht and RVW/LVW and significant attenuation of hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction (HPV) in the blue-sheep is considered to be characteristics of animals completely adapted to high-altitudes, such as the pika.
2003 by The Physiological Society of Japan