Recent studies on freely diving birds and mammals indicate that, contrary to the classical hypothesis, the majority of dives are aerobic with minimal cardiovascular adjustments (i.e. bradycardia and selective vasoconstriction). It is postulated that during these aerobic dives the cardiovascular adjustments result from the opposing influences of exercise and the classical diving response, with the bias towards the exercise response. It is envisaged that the active muscles, as well as the brain and heart, are adequately supplied with blood to enable them to metabolize aerobically. Intense mental activity, particularly in carnivores seeking their prey, may also attenuate the classical response. Aerobic dives are usually terminated well before the oxygen stores are depleted, and another dive follows once they have been replenished. In this way a series of dives is performed. Prolonged dives are endured as a result of a shift towards the classical response of bradycardia, presumably more intense vasoconstriction, and anaerobiosis. This may be a form of alarm response, particularly in small animals such as ducks and coypus, or it may be a means of allowing the marine birds and mammals that dive deeply for their food to engage in unusually long hunting expeditions. For those that dive under ice, it may also allow long periods of underwater exploration as well as being a safety mechanism should the animal become disoriented.

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