Assistant Professor of Biology, Texas A&M University
Andreas Fahlman, Ph.D. is a comparative physiologist whose research projects revolve around the central question of how animals function in challenging environments. He was born and raised in Sweden, and moved to Hawaii in 1993 to pursue a BSc in Marine Biology. He completed his PhD in Biology from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, in 2000, with an award-winning dissertation On the Physiology of Hydrogen Diving and its Implication for Hydrogen Biochemical Decompression, based on research he performed at the Naval Medical Research Center, Bethesda, Maryland, USA. His graduate and post-graduate studies ranged from ultra-deep diving physiology; novel methods for reducing the risk of decompression sickness; genetic regulation of respiratory and cardiovascular responses to diving and hypoxia in marine mammals and birds; and molecular and metabolic biochemistry in hibernating mammals. He leads the Comparative Physiology Laboratory at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, which studies the physiological traits that are important to deep and prolonged breath-hold dives in vertebrates. The lab investigates the effects of pressure on gas exchange, metabolism, heart rate, temperature regulation, and foraging efficiency in freely-diving sea birds and marine mammals. The research of the lab includes field studies in North and South America, Europe, and Africa, from Arctic to Antarctic regions.
Breath-hold diving vertebrates are able to dive to phenomenal depths and remain submerged for prolonged periods of time while foraging. A number of physiological, biochemical and behavioral traits have been suggested that enable this life style. These include behavioral swim strategies to reduce the metabolic cost of diving, and the so-called diving response, which is a suite of traits including peripheral vasoconstriction, altered blood flow distribution, bradycardia, and diving-induced hypometabolism. Other traits that are important in mammals include increased tissue O2 stores, and a respiratory system that can withstand repeated compression and atelectasis. However, our understanding of respiratory physiology in marine vertebrates, and especially the effect of pressure on gas exchange, is limited. The Comparative Physiology Laboratory seek to improve our understanding how diving vertebrates manage gases while diving, and recent and current work mainly focus on the respiratory physiology of marine mammals. We do this using a combination of approaches from theoretical modeling how pressure affects gas exchange, to studies on tissues, and experiments on live animals.