Polar Biology

, Volume 33, Issue 7, pp 919–928 | Cite as

Ion regulatory capacity and the biogeography of Crustacea at high southern latitudes

  • Astrid C. WittmannEmail author
  • Christoph Held
  • Hans O. Pörtner
  • Franz J. Sartoris
Original Paper


Brachyuran and anomuran decapod crabs do not occur in the extremely cold waters of the Antarctic continental shelf whereas caridean and other shrimp-like decapods, amphipods and isopods are highly abundant. Differing capacities for extracellular ion regulation, especially concerning magnesium, have been hypothesised to determine cold tolerance and by that the biogeography of Antarctic crustaceans. Magnesium is known to have a paralysing effect, which is even more distinct in the cold. As only few or no data exist on haemolymph ionic composition of Sub-Antarctic and Antarctic crustaceans, haemolymph samples of 12 species from these regions were analysed for the concentrations of major inorganic ions (Na+, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+, Cl, SO4 2−) by ion chromatography. Cation relationships guaranteed neuromuscular excitability in all species. Sulphate and potassium correlated positively with magnesium concentration. The Antarctic caridean decapod as well as the amphipods maintained low (6–20% of ambient sea water magnesium concentration), Sub-Antarctic brachyuran and anomuran crabs as well as the Antarctic isopods high (54–96% of ambient sea water magnesium concentration) haemolymph magnesium levels. In conclusion, magnesium regulation may explain the biogeography of decapods, but not that of the peracarids.


Antarctic Haemolymph ion composition Decapoda Isopoda Amphipoda Magnesium 



We would like to thank Timo Hirse and Florian Leese for sample collection. We greatly appreciate the help of the crew of RV Polarstern during the transport of live animals. The experiments comply with the current laws of the country in which they were performed. This study was supported by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft grants no. SA 1713 and He 3391/3 and by National Science Foundation grant no. OPP V01-32032. This is publication 25 of the ICEFISH cruise 2004.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Astrid C. Wittmann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christoph Held
    • 1
  • Hans O. Pörtner
    • 1
  • Franz J. Sartoris
    • 1
  1. 1.Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine ResearchBremerhavenGermany

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