Living in warmer more acidic oceans retards physiological recovery from tidal emersion in the velvet swimming crab Necora puber (L.)

The distribution patterns of many species in the intertidal zone are partly determined by their ability to survive and recover from tidal emersion. During emersion most crustaceans experience gill-collapse impairing gas-exchange. Such collapse generates a state of hypoxemia and a hypercapnia-induced respiratory acidosis, leading to hyperlactaemia and metabolic acidosis. However, how such physiological responses to emersion are modified by prior exposure to elevated CO2 and temperature combinations, indicative of future climate change scenarios, is not known. We therefore investigated key physiological responses of velvet swimming crabs, Necora puber, kept for 14 days at one of four pCO2/temperature treatments (400 μatm/10 °C, 1000 μatm/10 °C, 400 μatm/15 °C, 1000 μatm/15 °C), to experimental emersion and recovery. Pre-exposure to elevated pCO2 and temperature increased pre-emersion bicarbonate ion concentrations [HCO3-], increasing resistance to short periods of emersion (90 min). However, there was still a significant acidosis following 180 min emersion in all treatments. The recovery of extracellular acid base via the removal of extracellular pCO2 (PCO2) and lactate after emersion was significantly retarded by exposure to both elevated temperature and pCO2. If elevated environmental pCO2 and temperature lead to slower recovery after emersion, then some predominantly subtidal species that also inhabit the low to mid shore, such as N. puber, may have a reduced physiological capacity to retain their presence in the low intertidal zone, ultimately affecting their bathymetric range of distribution, as well as the structure, and diversity of intertidal assemblages.

Rastrick S. P. S., Calosi P., Calder-Potts R., Foggo A., Nightingale G., Widdicombe S. & Spicer J. I., in press. Living in warmer more acidic oceans retards physiological recovery from tidal emersion in the velvet swimming crab Necora puber (L.). Journal of Experimental Biology. Article (subscription required).

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