The dynamics of bimodal respiration, diving behaviour and blood acid-base status in the softshell turtle Trachemys scripta and the pond slider Apalone ferox were investigated at rest and under conditions of stress induced by exercise and forced submergence. During periods of forced submergence, only A. ferox doubled its aquatic gas exchange rate. Both A. ferox and T. scripta increased their aerial gas exchange profoundly following exercise and forced submergence, a pattern indicative of increased anaerobic respiration. Emersion duration increased significantly in A. ferox following forced submergence, and mean apnoeic time decreased significantly in A. ferox following exercise, indicating that a larger proportion of time at the surface was spent ventilating. Also, A. ferox maintained a one-breath breathing bout regardless of treatment. Submergence produced a respiratory acidosis in the plasma of approximately 0.2 pH units in magnitude in T. scripta and a mixed respiratory/metabolic acidosis of 0.4 pH units in A. ferox. Exercise induced an acidosis of 0.2 pH units of primarily metabolic origin in both species. Intra-erythrocyte pH was also reduced in both species in response to submergence and exercise. Both intracellular and extracellular acidoses were more severe and longer lasting in A. ferox after each treatment. Plasma [HCO3-] decreased by 25 % in both species following exercise, but only in A. ferox following submergence. Plasma lactate concentrations increased by equal amounts in each species following exercise; however, they returned to resting concentrations sooner in T. scripta than in A. ferox. A. ferox had significantly higher lactate levels than T. scripta following forced submergence as well as a slower recovery time. A. ferox, which is normally a good bimodal gas exchanger at rest, utilizes aerial respiration to a greater extent when under respiratory and/or metabolic stress. T. scripta, although almost entirely dependent on aerial respiration, is physiologically better able to deal with the respiratory and metabolic stresses associated with both forced submergence and exercise.

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