Skeletal muscle thermogenesis enables aquatic life in the smallest marine mammal

Traver Wright, Randall W. Davis, Heidi C. Pearson, Michael Murray, Melinda Sheffield-Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Basal metabolic rate generally scales with body mass in mammals, and variation from predicted levels indicates adaptive metabolic remodeling. As a thermogenic adaptation for living in cool water, sea otters have a basal metabolic rate approximately three times that of the predicted rate; however, the tissue-level source of this hypermetabolism is unknown. Because skeletal muscle is a major determinant of whole-body metabolism, we characterized respiratory capacity and thermogenic leak in sea otter muscle. Compared with that of previously sampled mammals, thermogenic muscle leak capacity was elevated and could account for sea otter hypermetabolism. Muscle respiratory capacity was modestly elevated and reached adult levels in neonates. Premature metabolic development and high leak rate indicate that sea otter muscle metabolism is regulated by thermogenic demand and is the source of basal hypermetabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-225
Number of pages3
Issue number6551
StatePublished - Jul 9 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Skeletal muscle thermogenesis enables aquatic life in the smallest marine mammal'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this