Thermal tachypnea in avian embryos
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Many adult mammals and birds respond to high surrounding temperatures with thermal tachypnea - an increase in breathing frequency accompanied by shallow tidal volume, with minimal increase in oxygen consumption (VO2). This pattern favors heat dissipation by evaporative water loss (EWL) through the respiratory tract. We asked to what extent this response was apparent at the earliest stages of development, when pulmonary ventilation initiates. Measurements of pulmonary ventilation (V. E; barometric technique), VO2 (open-flow methodology) and EWL (water scrubbers) were performed on chicken embryos at the earliest appearance of pulmonary ventilation, during the internal pipping stage. Data were collected, first, at the normal incubation temperature (37.5 degrees C); then, ambient and egg temperatures were increased to approximately 44 degrees C over a 2 h period. Other embryos of the same developmental stage (controls) were maintained in normothermia for the whole duration of the experiment. During heat exposure, the embryo's VO2 and carbon dioxide production increased little. In contrast, V. E more than doubled (similar to 128% increase), entirely because of the large rise in breathing frequency (similar to 132% increase), with no change in tidal volume. EWLdid not change significantly, probably because, within the egg, the thermal and water vapor gradients are almost nonexistent. We conclude that chicken embryos respond to a major heat load with tachypnea, like many adult mammals and birds do. Its appearance so early in development, although ineffective for heat loss, signifies that thermal tachypnea represents an important breathing response necessary to be functional from hatching.