Eat and run: prioritization of oxygen delivery during elevated metabolic states

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2004 Dec 15;144(2-3):215-24. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2004.05.011.


The principal function of the cardiopulmonary system is the matching of oxygen and carbon dioxide transport to the metabolic requirements of different tissues. Increased oxygen demands (VO2), for example during physical activity, result in a rapid compensatory increase in cardiac output and redistribution of blood flow to the appropriate skeletal muscles. These cardiovascular changes are matched by suitable ventilatory increments. This matching of cardiopulmonary performance and metabolism during activity has been demonstrated in a number of different taxa, and is universal among vertebrates. In some animals, large increments in aerobic metabolism may also be associated with physiological states other than activity. In particular, VO2 may increase following feeding due to the energy requiring processes associated with prey handling, digestion and ensuing protein synthesis. This large increase in VO2 is termed "specific dynamic action" (SDA). In reptiles, the increase in VO2 during SDA may be 3-40-fold above resting values, peaking 24-36 h following ingestion, and remaining elevated for up to 7 days. In addition to the increased metabolic demands, digestion is associated with secretion of H+ into the stomach, resulting in a large metabolic alkalosis (alkaline tide) and a near doubling in plasma [HCO3-]. During digestion then, the cardiopulmonary system must meet the simultaneous challenges of an elevated oxygen demand and a pronounced metabolic alkalosis. This paper will compare and contrast the patterns of cardiopulmonary response to similar metabolic increments in these different physiological states (exercise and/or digestion) in a variety of reptiles, including the Burmese python, Python morulus, savannah monitor lizard, Varanus exanthematicus, and American alligator Alligator mississipiensis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bicarbonates / blood
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Digestion / physiology
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Physical Exertion
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange / physiology
  • Reptiles
  • Running / physiology*
  • Time Factors


  • Bicarbonates
  • Oxygen