MEPS 334:1-9 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/meps334001

Extracellular acid–base regulation during short-term hypercapnia is effective in a shallow-water crab, but ineffective in a deep-sea crab

Eric F. Pane*, James P. Barry

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, 7700 Sandholdt Road, Moss Landing, California 95039, USA

ABSTRACT: Rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide could be curbed by large-scale sequestration of CO2 in the deep sea. Such a solution requires prior assessment of the impact of hypercapnic, acidic seawater on deep-sea fauna. Laboratory studies were conducted to assess the short-term hypercapnic tolerance of the deep-sea Tanner crab Chionoecetes tanneri, collected from 1000 m depth in Monterey Canyon off the coast of central California, USA. Hemolymph acid– base parameters were monitored over 24 h of exposure to seawater equilibrated with ~1% CO2 (seawater PCO2 ~6 torr or 0.8 kPa, pH 7.1), and compared with those of the shallow-living Dungeness crab Cancer magister. Short-term hypercapnia-induced acidosis in the hemolymph of Chionoecetes tanneri was almost uncompensated, with a net 24 h pH reduction of 0.32 units and a net bicarbonate accumulation of only 3 mM. Under simultaneous hypercapnia and hypoxia, short-term extracellular acidosis in Chionoecetes tanneri was completely uncompensated. In contrast, Cancer magister fully recovered its hemolymph pH over 24 h of hypercapnic exposure by net accumulation of 12 mM bicarbonate from the surrounding medium. The data support the hypothesis that deep-sea animals, which are adapted to a stable environment and exhibit reduced metabolic rates, lack the short-term acid–base regulatory capacity to cope with the acute hypercapnic stress that would accompany large-scale CO2 sequestration. Additionally, the data indicate that sequestration in oxygen-poor areas of the ocean would be even more detrimental to deep-sea fauna.

KEY WORDS: CO2 · Deep sea · Physiology · Decapod crustacea · Acid–base regulation · Chionoecetes tanneri · Cancer magister

Full text in pdf format