Convergent changes in muscle metabolism depend on duration of high-altitude ancestry across andean waterfowl

Neal J. Dawson, Luis Alza, Gabriele Nandal, Graham R. Scott, Kevin G. McCracken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


High-altitude environments require that animals meet the metabolic O2 demands for locomotion and thermogenesis in O2-thin air, but the degree to which convergent metabolic changes have arisen across independent high-altitude lineages or the speed at which such changes arise is unclear. We examined seven high-altitude waterfowl that have inhabited the Andes (3812-4806m elevation) over varying evolutionary time scales, to elucidate changes in biochemical pathways of energy metabolism in flight muscle relative to low-altitude sister-taxa. Convergent changes across high-altitude taxa included increased hydroxyacyl-coA dehydrogenase and succinate dehydrogenase activities, decreased lactate dehydrogenase, pyruvate kinase, creatine kinase, and cytochrome c oxidase activities, and increased myoglobin content. ATP synthase activity increased in only the longest established high-altitude taxa, whereas hexokinase activity increased in only newly established taxa. Therefore, changes in pathways of lipid oxidation, glycolysis, and mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation are common strategies to cope with high-altitude hypoxia, but some changes require longer evolutionary time to arise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere56259
Pages (from-to)1-35
Number of pages35
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Andes
  • Birds, high-altitude adaptation
  • Energy metabolism
  • Hypoxia
  • Mitochondrial energetics
  • Waterfowl

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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