Marine Biology

, Volume 162, Issue 9, pp 1913–1921 | Cite as

The squat lobster Pleuroncodes monodon tolerates anoxic “dead zone” conditions off Peru

  • Rainer KikoEmail author
  • Helena Hauss
  • Marcus Dengler
  • Stefan Sommer
  • Frank Melzner
Short note


The squat lobster Pleuroncodes monodon is a key species of the highly productive, but oxygen-poor upwelling system of the Eastern Tropical South Pacific. Observations of P. monodon in the water column off Peru have led to the hypothesis that anoxic conditions force this otherwise primarily benthic species to adopt a pelagic lifestyle. Here we show that off Peru, P. monodon can be found in the oxygenated surface water, but also on the anoxic seafloor. Our physiological experiments demonstrate that juvenile and adult specimens have a very low critical respiratory pO2 of 0.5 kPa and that adults survive anoxia for 30.5–70.5 h. Anoxic conditions at the seafloor should therefore force P. monodon to regularly migrate to the oxic surface layer in order to restore energy reserves and recycle metabolic end products of anaerobic metabolism. It was recently estimated that the ammonium supply mediated by diel vertical migrations (DVMs) of zooplankton and nekton considerably fuels bacterial anaerobic ammonium oxidation—a major loss process for fixed nitrogen in the ocean. These estimates were based on the implicit assumption that anoxia does not result in a down-regulation of ammonium excretion. We here show that exposure to anoxia elicits a fourfold reduction in ammonium excretion from 2.1 ± 0.6 µmol h−1 g dry weight−1 under normoxic to 0.5 ± 0.6 µmol h−1 g DW−1 under anoxic conditions in P. monodon. Estimates of ammonium supply to the anoxic core of oxygen minimum zones via DVM therefore are likely too high.


Peru Anaerobic Ammonium Oxidation Anoxic Condition Carapace Length Ammonium Excretion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank captain and crew of RV Meteor, as well as the chief scientists of M93 Gaute Lavik and Thorsten Kanzow for their support during this study. Furthermore, we would like to thank T. Werner, R. Rosa and another anonymous reviewer for their valuable comments. This study was financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft via the Sonderforschungsbereich 754 “Climate-Biogeochemistry Interactions in the Tropical Ocean.” Respiration and excretion data are available at

Supplementary material

Online Resource 1

Compilation of video data from benthic lander deployments with positive squat lobster identifications (mp4 87619 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rainer Kiko
    • 1
    Email author
  • Helena Hauss
    • 1
  • Marcus Dengler
    • 1
  • Stefan Sommer
    • 1
  • Frank Melzner
    • 1
  1. 1.GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research KielKielGermany

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