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image of Journal of Crustacean Biology

ABSTRACT Blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus Rathbun, were collected by beach seine from Gunston Cove and Dogue Creek, Virginia, during the summer and fall of 1985 and 1986. Ninety-one % of all crabs were males and the size range was 7-160 g wet weight. Almost all of the crabs were in premolt stages (D1-4) or had recently molted (stages A or B). A large fraction of the crabs were collected in or adjacent to a dense bed of submerged aquatic vegetation. Hemolymph samples were obtained from crabs after being brought to the laboratory where they were maintained under conditions as near natural as possible. Molting was accompanied by a wet weight increase of nearly 100%, approximately twice that of blue crabs molting in high salinity water. This weight gain did not seem to be size-dependent in crabs less than 100 g, and is presumed to be due to facilitation of water uptake resulting from the large osmotic gradient (approximately 600 mOsm). It is concluded that there must be an increase in the permeability of the epithelium to water in order to take advantage of the osmotic gradient. Molting was associated with an alkalosis of the hemolymph and an increase in total carbon dioxide, but the magnitude of both changes was substantially smaller than in blue crabs molting in high salinity water. Thus, the migration of blue crabs into the tidal fresh-water areas of the Potomac River results in significantly greater incremental growth and diminished acid-base disturbances during the molt.


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