The radiation of the terrestrial isopods (sub-order Oniscidea) has been accompanied by evolution of pleopodal lungs in the sections Tylida and Crinocheta. To understand the significance of such lungs for aerobic respiration, comparative studies were conducted using 6 species. Ligia occidentalis, lacking lungs, behaved as a metabolic conformer in reduced PO(2), and showed decreased V(.-)O(2) in low humidity and following dehydration. In species possessing lungs, metabolism was insensitive to dehydration. However, lung development did not show a clear relationship to metabolic regulation: Porcellio dilatatus was a metabolic conformer while Tylos punctatus and Armadillidium vulgare were efficient regulators. The metabolic conformers did not accumulate lactate during moderate hypoxia (10% O(2)), indicating that reduced V(.-)O(2) is not compensated with anaerobic glycolysis. In contrast, Alloniscus perconvexus, a littoral species with limited metabolic regulation, showed the largest lactate accumulation during hypoxia and also possessed the highest tissue LDH activity. It is hypothesized that these are adaptations to periodic hypoxia in sand burrows and the high metabolic cost of burrowing. Differences in lactate accumulation during immersion were curious, with the largest increases occurring in L. occidentalis and A. perconvexus that tolerate prolonged immersion in seawater. Possible functions of this lactate accumulation may include modulation of hemocyanin oxygen affinity.