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J Exp Zool A Ecol Genet Physiol. 2009 Oct 1;311(8):551-62. doi: 10.1002/jez.478.

Lung ventilation during treadmill locomotion in a semi-aquatic turtle, Trachemys scripta.

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Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut 06269, USA.


It is reasonable to presume that locomotion should have a mechanical effect on breathing in turtles. The turtle shell is rigid, and when the limbs protract and retract, air in the lungs should be displaced. This expectation was met in a previous study of the green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas; breathing completely ceased during terrestrial locomotion (Jackson and Prange, 1979. J Comp Physiol 134:315-319). In contrast, another study found no direct effect of locomotion on ventilation in the terrestrial box turtle, Terrapene carolina (Landberg et al., 2003. J Exp Biol 206:3391-3404). In this study we measured lung ventilation during treadmill locomotion in a semi-aquatic turtle, the red-eared slider, Trachemys scripta. Sliders breathed almost continuously during locomotion and during brief pauses between locomotor bouts. Tidal volume was relatively small (approximately 1 mL) during locomotion and approximately doubled during pauses. Minute ventilation was, however, not significantly smaller during locomotion because breath frequency was higher than that during the pauses. We found no consistent evidence for phase coupling between breathing and locomotion indicating that sliders do not use locomotor movements to drive breathing. We also found no evidence for a buccal-pump mechanism. Sliders, like box turtles, appear to use abdominal musculature to breathe during locomotion. Thus, locomotion affects lung ventilation differently in the three turtle species studied to date: the terrestrial Te. carolina shows no measurable effect of locomotion on ventilation; the semi-aquatic Tr. scripta breathes with smaller tidal volumes during locomotion; and the highly aquatic C. mydas stops breathing completely during terrestrial locomotion.

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