Effects of emersion and elevated haemolymph ammonia on haemocyanin–oxygen affinity of Cancerpagurus

Research paper by A. Danford, L. Hagerman, R. Uglow

Indexed on: 01 Dec '02Published on: 01 Dec '02Published in: Marine Biology


The subtidal crab Cancerpagurus (L.) experiences involuntary periods of emersion associated with practices used in their marketing and distribution. During 24 h emersion, impaired gill function caused an increase of circulating total ammonia (TA=NH3+NH4+) of 0.35 mmol TA l–1 (167%). The oxygen-binding characteristics of the haemocyanin of C. pagurus were examined at 10°C in the presence of total ammonia (0.2–1.0 mmol TA l–1). The haemocyanin–oxygen affinity was decreased in the presence of TA (ΔlogP50/Δlog[TA]=0.16). Emersion induced significant acidosis and elevated circulating levels of haemolymph TA, lactate and urate, but all had returned to normal levels within 24 h of re-immersion. The accumulation of haemocyanin-modulating substances during 24 h emersion compensated partially (40%) for the effect of the acidosis, but the net effect of the emersion period was a significant decrease in oxygen affinity, corresponding to an increase of P50 (10°C ) from 1.24 kPa (immersed) to 1.96 kPa (24 h emersion). The implications of the findings are considered in terms of the effects and adaptations to emersion.