Tadpoles of Rana catesbeiana were exposed to different levels of environmental hypercapnia. The acid-base regulatory response differed from that in adult amphibians in showing a high degree of pH compensation in the extracellular fluid (65-85%) and complete compensation in the intracellular fluid (tail muscle and liver) within 24 h. Hypercapnia induced a massive transfer of HCO3- equivalents and Ca2+ from the tadpoles to the environment, which lasted some 4-6 h. Bicarbonate accumulated in the body fluids came mainly from internal buffer sources (probably CaCO3 in lime sacs and/or skin deposits). It is suggested that the large bicarbonate efflux from the animal is a consequence of the dissolution of CaCO3 stores and the delayed adjustment of bicarbonate-retaining mechanisms. Re-exposure of tadpoles to hypercapnia after 1-3 weeks of normocapnic recovery only affected transepithelial fluxes of acid-base equivalents marginally, suggesting that mobilisable CaCO3 stores were depleted during the first exposure to hypercapnia and that they were not refilled. The CaCO3 stores may normally be mobilised during the slowly developing internal hypercapnia that occurs during metamorphosis.

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