Marine Biology

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 41–55 | Cite as

Aspects of nitrogen metabolism of the common mussel Mytilus edulis: Adaptation to abrupt and fluctuating changes in salinity

  • D. R. Livingstone
  • J. Widdows
  • P. Fieth


Mytilus edulis L. were exposed to abrupt (30‰→15‰ and 15‰→30‰) and fluctuating (sinusoidal 12 h cycles of 30‰→15‰→30‰) changes in salinity, and the changes in the total osmoconcentration of the haemolymph were recorded. The response of nitrogen metabolism to the altered extracellular osmotic concentrations was investigated in terms of the concentrations of the total NPS (ninhydrin-positive substances) pool and the individual amino acids of the tissues, the concentration of the amino acids of the haemolymph, and the rates of excretion of ammonia and amino acids by whole individuals. The haemolymph became isosmotic with the seawater with abrupt changes in salinity, but with fluctuating salinity was slightly hyperosmotic as the salinity decreased and then slightly hypo-osmotic as the salinity increased. This resulted in a reduction in the extent of the extracellular osmotic change compared to the change in fluctuating salinity to which it was exposed. Total NPS of the tissues decreased with an abrupt decrease in salinity and increased with an abrupt increase in salinity, but a seasonal dependence of the response was indicated. The short-term response of tissue NPS to fluctuating salinity was equivocal, but with long-term exposure the concentration declined. Ammonia and amino acid excretion increased with both an abrupt decrease in salinity and fluctuating salinity and decreased with an abrupt increase in salinity. Haemolymph amino acids increased with an abrupt decrease in salinity. The increased rates of nitrogen excretion accounted for the reductions in the NPS concentrations of the tissues except in the early stages of fluctuating salinity. Taurine, aspartate, threonine, serine, glycine and arginine declined with an abrupt decrease in salinity while alanine and glutamate increased slightly. With an abrupt increase in salinity, alanine and ammonia accumulated in the tissues and then declined while the other amino acids increased slowly over a longer time-course. Similar individual amino acid responses were seen with long-term exposure to fluctuating salinity, except for taurine which did not decrease in concentration. On the basis of the changes in tissue amino acids and ammonia, it is suggested that the “alanine dehydrogenase reaction” is the primary nitrogen-fixing reaction in marine bivalves such as M. edulis.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. R. Livingstone
    • 1
  • J. Widdows
    • 1
  • P. Fieth
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Marine Environmental ResearchPlymouthEngland

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