Tolerance of Three European Native Species of Crayfish to Hypoxia

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Species that can act as indicators of ecosystem health offer a valuable tool in the management of natural resources. Crayfish have been suggested as bioindicators of water quality in Europe and at least one species (Austropotamobius pallipes) has been studied to determine its tolerance to pollution and its potential as a bioindicator. The genus Austropotamobius includes three crayfish species native to western Europe: A. pallipes, A. italicus and A. torrentium. It was hypothesised that because of their geographical and habitat distribution, the three Austropotamobius species might vary in their value as a bioindicator of water quality. Crayfish of species A. pallipes and A. italicus were subjected to three different treatments: hypoxia (treatment 3, approx 3 mg l-1 O2), light hypoxia (treatment 2, approx 5.5 mg l-1 O2) and normoxia (treatment 1, control, approx 8.5 mg l-1 O2). A. torrentium crayfish were only subjected to treatment 1 (control) and 3. Variations in haemolymph sodium, calcium and chloride were used as a biomarker and concentrations were measured before and after treatment to evaluate hypoxia-induced stress. Significant differences in the concentrations of sodium between the control groups (treatment 1, normoxia) and the experimental groups (treatment 3, 3 mg l-1 O2) were found in the species A. pallipes and A. torrentium. Groups of A. italicus did not show any significant difference between treatments in sodium concentrations but in chloride concentrations. Crayfish of all three species demonstrated a disruption in the ion exchange process in hypoxia, but all tolerated very low oxygen concentration for an extended period of time.

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