Does physiological tolerance to acute hypoxia and salinity change explain ecological niche in two intertidal crab species?

Thomas R.L. Falconer, Islay D. Marsden, Jonathan V. Hill, Chris N. Glover

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Intertidal biota is subjected to significant fluctuations in environmental parameters such as salinity and dissolved oxygen (DO). In the current study, the effects of salinity and DO on metabolic rate, critical oxygen partial pressure (Pcrit), heart rate and osmoregulation in two intertidal crab species commonly found on New Zealand coastlines, Hemigrapsus crenulatus and Hemigrapsus sexdentatus, were measured. Based on its habitation of burrows in the lower intertidal zone, H. crenulatus was predicted to be more resilient to these environmental stressors than H. sexdentatus, which is distributed in the mid to high tidal zone. However, relative to the full-strength seawater control, there were no consistent salinity-dependent changes in respiratory or cardiovascular endpoints in either species following acute 6-h exposures mimicking a tidal cycle. Analysis of haemolymph osmolality and ions determined that both crab species were strong osmotic and ionic regulators over the 6-h exposure period. However, the threshold salinities at which significant changes in osmotic and ionic regulation occurred did differ and generally indicated that H. crenulatuswas the better regulator. Respiratory and cardiovascular responses toDOwere prominent, with a strong bradycardia observed in both species. Changes in osmolality and sodium ion regulation were also seen as DO declined. The effect on sodium ion levels had its onset at a higher oxygen partial pressure in H. sexdentatus than in H. crenulatus, indicative of a relatively poorer hypoxia tolerance in the former species. The relative resilience of respiratory, cardiovascular and osmoregulatory processes to salinity andDOvariations likely contribute to distinct habitat distributions of the two crab species on New Zealand shorelines, although behaviour and inter-specific interactions may also play important roles. Environmental change, in the form of coastal erosion and anthropogenic contamination of estuaries, has the potential to disturb the delicate niche separation that exists between these species.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbercoz086
JournalConservation Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan. 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Does physiological tolerance to acute hypoxia and salinity change explain ecological niche in two intertidal crab species?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this