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The effect of heat transfer mode on heart rate responses and hysteresis during heating and cooling in the estuarine crocodile Crocodylus porosus

, : The effect of heat transfer mode on heart rate responses and hysteresis during heating and cooling in the estuarine crocodile Crocodylus porosus. Journal of Experimental Biology 206(Pt 7): 1143-1151

The effect of heating and cooling on heart rate in the estuarine crocodile Crocodylus porosus was studied in response to different heat transfer mechanisms and heat loads. Three heating treatments were investigated. C. porosus were: (1) exposed to a radiant heat source under dry conditions; (2) heated via radiant energy while half-submerged in flowing water at 23 degrees C and (3) heated via convective transfer by increasing water temperature from 23 degrees C to 35 degrees C. Cooling was achieved in all treatments by removing the heat source and with C. porosus half-submerged in flowing water at 23 degrees C. In all treatments, the heart rate of C. porosus increased markedly in response to heating and decreased rapidly with the removal of the heat source. Heart rate during heating was significantly faster than during cooling at any given body temperature, i.e. there was a significant heart rate hysteresis. There were two identifiable responses to heating and cooling. During the initial stages of applying or removing the heat source, there was a dramatic increase or decrease in heart rate ('rapid response'), respectively, indicating a possible cardiac reflex. This rapid change in heart rate with only a small change or no change in body temperature (<0.5 degrees C) resulted in Q(10) values greater than 4000, calling into question the usefulness of this measure on heart rate during the initial stages of heating and cooling. In the later phases of heating and cooling, heart rate changed with body temperature, with Q(10) values of 2-3. The magnitude of the heart rate response differed between treatments, with radiant heating during submergence eliciting the smallest response. The heart rate of C. porosus outside of the 'rapid response' periods was found to be a function of the heat load experienced at the animal surface, as well as on the mode of heat transfer. Heart rate increased or decreased rapidly when C. porosus experienced large positive (above 25 W) or negative (below -15 W) heat loads, respectively, in all treatments. For heat loads between -15 W and 20 W, the increase in heart rate was smaller for the 'unnatural' heating by convection in water compared with either treatment using radiant heating. Our data indicate that changes in heart rate constitute a thermoregulatory mechanism that is modulated in response to the thermal environment occupied by the animal, but that heart rate during heating and cooling is, in part, controlled independently of body temperature.

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Accession: 003968401

PMID: 12604574

DOI: 10.1242/jeb.00222

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