Effects of chronic hypercapnia and elevated temperature on the immune response of the spiny lobster, Jasus lalandii


• Lobsters are very efficient at rendering an injected dose of bacteria non-culturable.
• There is an interactive effects of temperature and pH on lobster immunity.
• Haemocyte numbers are reduced following chronic exposure to hypercapnia/high temperature.
• Chronic exposure to hypercapnia/high temperature does not affect the ability of J. lalandii to defend itself against bacterial infection.


The West Coast rock lobster (WCRL), Jasus lalandii, inhabits highly variable environments frequented by upwelling events, episodes of hypercapnia and large temperature variations. Coupled with the predicted threat of ocean acidification and temperature change for the coming centuries, the immune response in this crustacean will most likely be affected. We therefore tested the hypothesis that chronic exposure to hypercapnia and elevated seawater temperature will alter immune function of the WCRL. The chronic effects of four combinations of two stressors (seawater pCO2 and temperature) on the total number of circulating haemocytes (THC) as well as on the lobsters’ ability to clear (inactivate) an injected dose of Vibrio anguillarum from haemolymph circulation were assessed. Juvenile lobsters were held in normocapnic (pH 8.01) or hypercapnic (pH 7.34) conditions at two temperatures (15.6 and 18.9 °C) for 48 weeks (n = 30 lobster per treatment), after which a subsample of lobsters (n = 8/treatment), all at a similar moult stage, were selected from each treatment for the immune challenge. Baseline levels of haemocytes (THC ml−1) and bacteria (CFU ml−1) in their haemolymph were quantified 24 h prior to bacterial challenge. Lobsters were then challenged by injecting 4 × 104 V. anguillarum per g body weight directly into the cardiac region of each lobster and circulating haemocyte and culturable bacteria were measured at 20 min post challenge. No significant differences in THC ml−1 (p < 0.05) were observed between any of the treatment groups prior to the bacterial challenge. However lobsters chronically exposed to a combination of hypercapnia and low temperature had significantly higher (p < 0.05) THCs post-challenge in comparison with lobsters chronically exposed to hypercapnia and high temperature. A significant interactive effect was recorded between temperature and pH for the post-challenge THC data (two-way ANOVA, p = 0.0025). Lobster were very efficient at rendering an injected dose of bacteria non-culturable, with more than 83% of the theoretical challenge dose (∼1.7 × 105 Vibrio ml−1 haemolymph) inactivated within the first 10 min following injection. Although differences in the inactivation of V. anguillarum were observed between treatment groups, none of these differences were significant. Clearance efficiency was in the following order: Hypercapnia/low temperature > normocapnia/high temperature > normocapnia/low temperature > hypercapnia/high temperature. This study demonstrated that despite chronic exposure to combinations of reduced seawater pH and high temperature, the WCRL was still capable of rapidly rendering an injected dose of bacteria non-culturable.

Knapp J. L., Hoffman L. C., Auerswald L. & Macey B. M., in press. Fish & Shellfish Immunology. Article (subscription required).

  • Reset


OA-ICC Highlights

%d bloggers like this: