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image of Journal of Crustacean Biology

ABSTRACT European lobsters, Homarus gammarus, delivered to the wholesale market in Birmingham, England, had experienced 12-14 h of exposure to air during shipment from coastal suppliers. Lobsters judged to be in good condition on arrival at the market had low postbranchial oxygen partial pressures (PaO2, 1.9 kPa) but maintained circulating oxygen contents closer to submerged levels (CaO2, 0.27 mmol 1–1) chiefly by conserving oxygen combined to hemocyanin (CHc O2, 0.24 mmol 1–1). In addition, they had accumulated some CO2 (PaCO2, 1.13 kPa) and lactic acid (9.0 mmol 1–1) but were not acidotic (pHa, 7.71) due to an elevation in buffer base ([HCO3–]a, 21.7 mmol 1–1). These changes paralleled those observed in a laboratory study of exposure of H. gammarus to air, which revealed that internal buffering of a potential acidosis plus increased oxygen affinity of hemocyanin restored oxygen transport, enabling prolonged survival. On resubmergence, recovery of PaO2 and PaCO2 was complete within 1 h with a slower recovery in [HCO3–]a and an initial rise in lactate levels by 3.3 mmol 1–1 after 30 min, before a gradual return to submerged values over 24 h. Lobsters delivered in poor condition were severely hypoxemic (CaO2 and CHc O2 <0.1 mmol 1–1 ') due either to a pronounced and uncompensated acidosis (pHa, 7.21–7.57) or, in late premolt lobsters, to low oxygen-carrying capacities. On resubmergence, these lobsters showed abnormal patterns of oxygen and acid-base adjustments with only 25% of the animals sampled surviving 24 h in the holding tanks. The ability of lobsters to survive exposure to air during commercial shipment was influenced by the presence of a period of "ponding" before transport to market, journey time from supplier to market, transportation temperature, levels of disturbance, and molt stage.

Affiliations: 1: School of Biological Sciences, University of Birmingham, P.O. Box 363, Birmingham, England B15 2TT.


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