OPEN Scientific reports | 8 May 2013
E Sierra, A Fernández, AE de Los Monteros, M Arbelo, YB de Quirós and P Herráez
Sarcopenia, or senile muscle atrophy, is the slow and progressive loss of muscle mass with advancing age that constitutes the most prevalent form of muscle atrophy. The effects of ageing on skeletal muscle have been extensively studied in humans and laboratory animals (mice), while the few reports on wild animals are based on short-lived mammals. The present study describes the age-related changes in cetacean muscles regarding the three factors that determine muscle mass: fibre size, fibre number, and fibre type. We show that the skeletal muscle fibres in cetaceans change with advancing age, evolving towards a slower muscle phenotype. We suggest that this physiological evolution constitutes an adaptation that allows these marine mammals to perform prolonged, deep dives.
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