Physiology of High Altitude Adaptations in Animals

Adaptation to high altitude is characterized by numerous functional changes which collectively facilitate oxygen transport to body tissues (Snyder, 1978).  Several vertebrate animals have successfully adapted to an oxygen impoverished high altitude lifestyle.  The lama (llama glama) and deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) are of particular interest because these mammals have species that live at high and low altitude, thus simplifying physiological comparisons



The Oxygen Dissociation Curve


Llama Adaptations

Deer Mice Adaptations



Literature Cited

Animals living at high altitude encounter several environmentally induced challenges including increased wind speeds, severe cold temperatures, and decreased partial pressures of oxygen (Schmidt-Nielsen, 1997).  Several animals have adapted to these conditions and are thus capable of living at high altitude.  This website examines the effects and adaptations of animals to low partial pressures of oxygen.  The deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) and the llama (Llama glama) are used as models to examine the adaptations animals make at high altitudes.

Image courtesy of Brian Pinkerton at Mount Lehman Llamas.

Introduction     The Oxygen Dissociation Curve     Hypoxia     Llama     Deer Mice     Conclusion Acknowledgements     Literature Cited     

This web site was created as a class assignment for Animal Physiology.  Please direct correspondence to

Last Updated November 28, 1999

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