UBC Department of Zoology

Angelina Fong

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Zoology (UBC)

PhD. (Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)

BSc Hons. (Monash University)

Contact Info:
Department of Zoology
University of British Columbia
6270 University Blvd.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada, V6T 1Z4

Tel: (604) 822-5799
FAX: (604) 822-2416


Newborn mammals of many species exhibit different respiratory responses to environmental challenges compared to their adult counterparts. For example, neonates of many species (such as rats) can survive hypothermia (cold) or hypoxia (low oxygen) that would be intolerable by adults of the same species. During these extreme challenges, respiration ceases but restarts upon return to more ‘normal’ conditions. This transition from neonatal to adult characteristics (ontogeny) may involve changes in the brain, including the central respiratory rhythm generators. However, not all species of mammals appear to undergo this transition. Thus, in addition to developmental changes, there are also species differences (phylogeny) to the tolerance of environmental challenges by the respiratory system.

The phylogenetic difference in the developmental changes from neonatal to adult characteristics may depend on how well developed the newborn is at birth. The focus of my research is to examine the postnatal development of respiratory response to hypothermia, hypoxia and hypercapnia (high carbon dioxide) using a number of different species along the altricial-precocial spectrum. We hypothesise that species with young born more immature (altricial) will exhibit greater differences between neonatal and adult responses. These differences may originate in different cellular mechanism, including differing dependence on pacemaker currents, involved in the generation of respiratory responses between ages and species. Understanding the ontogeny of the respiratory systems in mammals may shed insight into developmental changes in the respiratory system of humans, especially in situations when breathing stops and is unable to restart, such as SIDS.

Last updated: 15 November, 2007