Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology

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The goal of this study was to identify the factors that limit the survival of the red-eared slider turtle Trachemys scripta during long-term anoxic submergence at 3°C. We measured blood acid-base status and tissue lactate and glycogen contents after 13, 29, and 44 d of submergence from ventricle, liver, carapace (lactate only), and four skeletal muscles. We also measured plasma Ca2+, Mg2+, Na+, K+, Cl-, inorganic phosphate (Pi), lactate, and glucose. After 44 d, one of the six remaining turtles died, while the other turtles were in poor condition and suffered from a severe acidemia (blood pH = 7.09 from 7.77) caused by lactic acidosis (plasma lactate 91.5 mmol L-1). An initial respiratory acidosis attenuated after 28 d. Lactate rose to similar concentrations in ventricle and skeletal muscle (39.3–46.1 μmol g-1). Liver accumulated the least lactate (21.8 μmol g-1), and carapace accumulated the most lactate (68.9 μmol g-1). Plasma Ca2+ and Mg2+ increased significantly throughout submergence to levels comparable to painted turtles at a similar estimated lactate load. Glycogen depletion was extensive in all tissues tested: by 83% in liver, by 90% in ventricle, and by 62%–88% in muscle. We estimate that the shell buffered 69.1% of the total lactate load, which is comparable to painted turtles. Compared with painted turtles, predive tissue glycogen contents and plasma HCO3- concentrations were low.We believe these differences contribute to the poorer tolerance to long-term anoxic submergence in red-eared slider turtles compared with painted turtles.

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Physiological and Biochemical Zoology

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