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Physiol Biochem Zool. 2007 Jan-Feb;80(1):113-24. Epub 2006 Nov 9.

The potential role of CO2 in initiation and maintenance of estivation in the land snail Helix lucorum.

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Laboratory of Animal Physiology, Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, School of Biology, University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki GR-54124, Greece.


Elevated CO(2) levels are hypothesized to play a role in the initiation and maintenance of estivation in snails through disturbances of acid-base status. The aim of our study was to identify the ambient CO(2) threshold that induces disturbances in acid-base status in the air-breathing land snail Helix lucorum. Acid-base parameters were determined in the hemolymph of snails acclimated to 0.5%, 1%, 2%, 4%, and 8% CO(2) in air for 20 d. In addition, we evaluated the effects of long-term acclimation on metabolic rate and on levels of D-lactate dehydrogenase activity (D-LDH) and of D-lactate in snails after 20 d of exposure to increased CO(2) levels. Helix lucorum proved to be unable to compensate for a decrease in extracellular pH (pH(e)) when acclimated to levels higher than 1% CO(2) in air. The rate of oxygen consumption started to decrease when snails were acclimated to 0.5% CO(2) in air. However, there was no correlation between the drops in pH(e) and in metabolic rate. Long-term acclimation to elevated CO(2) levels induced an increase in the activity of D-LDH with a concomitant accumulation of D-lactate in tissues. This indicates that long-term acclimation to elevated ambient CO(2) levels could reduce the aerobic capacity of land snails and trigger expression of anaerobic pathways of ATP turnover. The threshold levels of ambient CO(2) that induce changes in acid-base status and elicit metabolic depression in adult land snails H. lucorum are higher than the future atmospheric levels that are expected to result from human use of fossil energy resources.

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