A multi-factorial experiment on heart rate variations in the intertidal crab Pachygrapsus marmoratus
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A multi-factorial experiment was designed to investigate the effect of the following factors on the cardiac activity of the intertidal crab Pachygrapsus marmoratus: respiratory medium (air, water), temperature (four levels, 10, 17.5, 25, 32.5 °C), season (winter, summer) and body size (two levels, carapace ≤21 mm and carapace >21 mm). The results showed that the heart rate of P. marmoratus increased linearly with temperature and decreased when the specimens were exposed to air rather than water. Moreover, the heart rate values in summer were lower than those in winter at the corresponding temperature and body size. The summer heart rate–temperature regression line was laterally (to the right) shifted with respect to the winter line, suggesting a seasonal acclimation. Body size affected heart rate only at the acclimation temperature (17.5 °C), while no significant effect was detected at lower or higher temperatures. During the reproductive season a separate experiment was carried out to assess the effect of sex and reproductive status on heart rate. No significant difference was found among mean values of males, berried females and females without eggs. The results of the present study confirm the high physiological plasticity of this species, suggesting that P. marmoratus is a truly amphibious crab, able to deal with both water- and air-breathing during its activity.
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