Many reptiles, particularly diving species, display characteristic cardiovascular changes associated with lung ventilation (cardiorespiratory synchrony). Previous studies on freshwater turtles show that heart rate and pulmonary blood flow rate (Qpul) increase two- to fourfold during ventilation compared with breath-holding, and some studies report concomitant decreases in systemic blood flow rate (Qsys). The primary aim of this study was to provide a detailed description of cardiorespiratory synchrony in free-diving and fully recovered turtles (Trachemys scripta). During breath-holds lasting longer than 5 min, Qpul averaged 15 ml min-1 kg-1 and increased more than threefold to a maximum value of 50 ml min-1 kg-1 during ventilation. Qsys also increased during ventilation compared with during breath-holds lasting longer than 5 min (from 44 to 73 ml min-1 kg-1 during ventilation). Neither Qpul nor Qsys was affected by the number of breaths in the ventilatory periods. Changes in Qpul and Qsys were accomplished entirely through a significant increase in heart rate during ventilation, while total stroke volume (systemic+pulmonary) remained constant. Irrespective of the ventilatory state, Qsys exceeded Qpul by 20-30 ml min-1 kg-1. Nevertheless, because Qpul increased relatively more than Qsys during ventilation, Qpul/Qsys increased from 0.29 during apnoea to 0.80 during lung ventilation. This study confirms cardiorespiratory synchrony in the turtle Trachemys scripta but, in contrast to earlier studies, a net right-to-left cardiac shunt prevailed regardless of ventilatory state.

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