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Physiol Biochem Zool. 1999 Jul-Aug;72(4):493-501.

The physiology of hibernation among painted turtles: the Eastern painted turtle Chrysemys picta picta.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, 35487, USA. gultsch@biology.as.ua.edu


Eastern painted turtles (Chrysemys picta picta) from Connecticut were submerged at 3 degrees C in normoxic and anoxic water to simulate potential respiratory environments within their hibernacula. Those in normoxic water could survive submergence for at least 150 d, while those in anoxic water could survive for a maximum of about 125 d. Turtles in normoxic water developed a slight metabolic acidosis as plasma lactate accumulated to about 50 mM in 150 d, while anoxic turtles developed a severe lactic acidosis as plasma lactate reached about 200 mM in 125 d; there was no respiratory acidosis in either group. Plasma [Na+] changed little in either group, [Cl-] fell by about one-third in both, and [K+] increased by about fourfold in anoxic turtles but only slightly in those in normoxic water. Total plasma magnesium and calcium increased profoundly in anoxic turtles but moderately in those in normoxic water. Consideration of charge balance indicates that all major ions were measured in both groups. Plasma glucose remained unchanged in anoxic turtles until after about 75 d of submergence, when it increased and continued to increase with the duration of anoxia, with much variation among individuals; glucose remained unchanged throughout in turtles in normoxic water. Hematocrit doubled in 150 d in turtles in normoxic water; in anoxic turtles, an initial increase was no longer significant by day 100. Plasma osmolality increased markedly in anoxic turtles, largely because of accumulation of lactate, but anoxic turtles only gained about half the mass of turtles in normoxic water, who showed no increase in osmolality. The higher weight gain in the latter group is attributed to selective perfusion and ventilation of extrapulmonary gas exchange surfaces, resulting in a greater osmotic influx of water. The physiologic responses to simulated hibernation of C. picta picta are intermediate between those of Chrysemys picta bellii and Chrysemys picta dorsalis, which correlates with the severity of the winter each subspecies would be expected to encounter.

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