Skip to main content
No Access

Diving beyond Aerobic Limits: Effect of Temperature on Anaerobic Support of Simulated Predator Avoidance Dives in an Air-Breathing Ectotherm

Diving optimality models predict air breathers to routinely dive within aerobic limits, but predator avoidance dives may be an exception. Lengthening submergence times during a predation threat may enhance survival probability, and we therefore hypothesized that predator avoidance dives in juvenile estuarine crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) would be partially anaerobically fueled. We also predicted that reliance on anaerobic metabolism would increase at elevated temperatures to offset the faster depletion of body oxygen stores. Crocodiles were maintained at 28° and 34°C for 60 d and subsequently underwent simulated predator avoidance dive trials at two test temperatures (28° and 34°C). Blood was sampled immediately on surfacing to measure plasma lactate concentrations relative to nondiving (control) values. Aerobic dive limits (cADL; min) were also calculated using known body mass and oxygen storage relationships and rates of diving oxygen consumption and compared with observed dive durations. Postdive plasma lactate levels were elevated beyond resting levels at both test temperatures, indicating that aerobic thresholds were surpassed during simulated predator avoidance dives. Similarly, ≥90% of dive durations exceeded cADLs at both test temperatures. Postdive plasma lactate concentrations were independent of water temperature and thermal acclimation treatment. Together, these findings suggest that reliance on anaerobiosis during simulated predator avoidance dives is important regardless of temperature.