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Developmental adaptation to high altitude hypoxia

International Journal of Biometeorology
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  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Geography


Experimental studies on animals and humans exposed to hypoxic stress have been reviewed. These data suggest that the influence of hypoxic stress, and the organism's response to it, are greater during growth than during adulthood. The organism's responses include alterations in the quantity and size of the alveolar units of the lungs, enlargement of the right ventricle of the heart, slower somatic growth as measured by birth weight and body size, increased aerobic capacity during maximal work, and greater control of ventilation. It is postulated that the organism is more sensitive to the influence of environmental factors during growth and development than during adulthood. Consequently, adaptive traits acquired during the developmental period have profound, long-term consequences, which are reflected in the physiological and morphological characteristics of the adult organism. It is concluded that the differences between the highland and lowland natives in their physiological performance and morphology are mostly due to adaptations acquired during the developmental period.

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