Ablation of the ability to control the right-to-left cardiac shunt does not affect oxygen uptake, specific dynamic action or growth in the rattlesnake Crotalus durissus
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The morphologically undivided ventricle of the heart in non-crocodilian reptiles permits the mixing of oxygen-rich blood returning from the lungs and oxygen-poor blood from the systemic circulation. A possible functional significance for this intra-cardiac shunt has been debated for almost a century. Unilateral left vagotomy rendered the single effective pulmonary artery of the South American rattlesnake, Crotalus durissus, unable to adjust the magnitude of blood flow to the lung. The higher constant perfusion of the lung circulation and the incapability of adjusting the right-left shunt in left-denervated snakes persisted over time, providing a unique model for investigation of the long-term consequences of cardiac shunting in a squamate. Oxygen uptake recorded at rest and during spontaneous and forced activity was not affected by removing control of the cardiac shunt. Furthermore, metabolic rate and energetic balance during the post-prandial metabolic increment, plus the food conversion efficiency and growth rate, were all similarly unaffected. These results show that control of cardiac shunting is not associated with a clear functional advantage in adjusting metabolic rate, effectiveness of digestion or growth rates. © 2013. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.