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Blue crabs molting in the Chesapeake Bay during the summer months encounter water with a reduced ionic content and frequently a reduced oxygen content as well. The present research is one phase in a study of the respiratory consequences of these two conditions occurring simultaneously
during molting in blue crabs. This paper presents data on oxygen uptake, blood oxygen tensions and lactate levels during the molt cycle under normoxic, low salinity conditions. Respiratory function was assessed in blue crabs at each of the molt stages, and during the actual process of ecdysis.
Oxygen uptake increased approximately four fold from intermolt to ecdysis and declined rapidly after ecdysis. Peak oxygen uptake occurred approximately 1 h before the molt in 4 of 5 crabs. Postbranchial blood oxygen tension gradually decreased from 83 mm Hg in intermolt to ca. 15 mm Hg at
ecdysis. A concomitant decrease in venous oxygen tension undoubtedly permitted utilization of the venous oxygen reserve. Blood lactate increased to a peak of 1 mM in stage A, shortly following the molt. The weight gain of 81% at the molt, due to water uptake, resulted in no decrease in extracellular
osmolality nor chloride, despite the influx of dilute water. One explanation for these results is that part of the increase in metabolism at the molt is due to increased activity of the ion transport system.
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