There is increasing evidence that many amphibian and reptilian species use relatively slow ion-exchange mechanisms in addition to ventilation to adjust pH as body temperature changes. Large changes in blood bicarbonate concentration with changes in temperature have previously been reported for the snake Coluber constrictor. The purpose of the present study was to determine the ventilatory and pH adjustments associated with the increase in CO2 stores when the snakes are cooled. Body temperature was lowered from 30 to 10 °C within 4 h, at which time measurements of inspired minute ventilation (V.air), O2 consumption (VO2) and CO2 production (V.CO2) were started and continued for 56 h. The decrease in temperature produced a transient fall in the respiratory exchange ratio (V.CO2/VO2) to 0.2-0.3 and a steady-state value of 0.65±0.14 (mean ± s.d., N=7) was not achieved until about 35 h. There were concomitant transient reductions in V.air and V.air/V.O2. However, V.air/V.CO2 initially increased, with a corresponding reduction in arterial PCO2 (PaCO2) and increase in arterial pH. By 35 h, V.air/V.CO2 had decreased and PaCO2 had increased to steady-state levels, but pH decreased very little because of a gradual increase in bicarbonate concentration. We conclude that the drop in temperature imposed a metabolic acidosis for approximately 35 h because of the time required to increase bicarbonate concentration, and that the acidosis was compensated for by an elevated V.air/V.CO2. Steady-state breathing and acid-base status were not achieved until the relatively slow increase in CO2 stores had been completed.

This content is only available via PDF.