Impact of medium term exposure to CO2 enriched seawater on the physiological functions of the velvet swimming crab, Necora puber

Ocean acidification (OA) is predicted to play a major role in shaping species biogeography and marine biodiversity over the next century. We tested the effect of medium-term exposure to OA (pH 8.00, 7.30 and 6.70 for 30 d) on acid–base balance in the decapod crab Necora puber—a species that is known to possess good extracellular buffering ability during short-term exposure to hypercapnic conditions. To determine if crabs undergo physiological trade-offs in order to buffer their haemolymph, we characterised a number of fundamental physiological functions, i.e. metabolic rate, tolerance to heat, carapace and chelae [Ca2+] and [Mg2+], haemolymph [Ca2+] and [Mg2+], and immune response in terms of lipid peroxidation. Necora puber was able to buffer changes to extracellular pH over 30 d exposure to hypercapnic water, with no evidence of net shell dissolution, thus demonstrating that HCO3– is actively taken up from the surrounding water. In addition, tolerance to heat, carapace mineralization, and aspects of immune response were not affected by hypercapnic conditions. In contrast, whole-animal O2 uptake significantly decreased with hypercapnia, while significant increases in haemolymph [Ca2+] and [Mg2+] and chelae [Mg2+] were observed with hypercapnia. Our results confirm that most physiological functions in N. puber are resistant to low pH/ hypercapnia over a longer period than previously investigated, although such resistance comes at the expenses of metabolic rates, haemolymph chemistry and chelae mineralization.