Faculty Publications


Osmoregulation by six species of fiddler crabs (Uca) from the Mississippi delta area in the northern Gulf of Mexico

Document Type



Biogeography, Ecology, Ecophysiology, Fiddler crabs, Osmoregulation, Uca spp.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology





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Six species of fiddler crabs (Ocypodidae: Uca) were collected for osmoregulation studies from 25 locations near the delta of the Mississippi River in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Three of the species are classified as members of the Celuca subgenus, Uca spinicarpa, Uca panacea and Uca pugilator, while the remaining three are in the Minuca subgenus, Uca minax, Uca longisignalis and Uca rapax. In the field, U. minax, U. spinicarpa and, occasionally, U. longisignalis are found in freshwater habitats (FW; 0-299 mosM). Two Minuca species, U. longisignalis and U. rapax, are typically collected in brackish water habitats (BW; 300-629 mosM). On the other hand, U. panacea and U. pugilator are most abundant in eurysaline habitats (EH; >630 mosM). In the laboratory, populations of each species were challenged with media ranging from 30 to 3450 mosM (1-110‰). The FW species, U. spinicarpa and U. minax, did not tolerate osmotic concentrations >2100 mosM. The EH species, U. panacea and U. pugilator, however, tolerate concentrations >2800 mosM. The BW species, U. longisignalis and U. rapax, succumb to osmolalities between 2100 and 2800 mosM. Each species keeps its hemolymph concentration fairly constant in 30-1400 mosM solutions. The [ISO], isosmotic medium concentration (in mosM), is calculated for each taxon: U. minax, 659; U. spinicarpa, 682; U. longisignalis, 693; U. rapax, 769; U. pugilator, 816; and U. panacea, 822. In media with >1600 mosM, each species expresses different osmoregulating capabilities. The FW species, U. spinicarpa and U. minax, cannot control hemolymph osmolality above 1500 mosM while the BW-EH species, U. panacea, U. pugilator and U. rapax, regulate hemolymph values in media up to 2300 mosM. Within the FW/BW species U. longisignalis, the ability to osmoregulate corresponds with site of collection. Specimens from FW populations do not regulate as well as those from BW if challenged with hypertonic media. If adapted to a 1800 mosM in the laboratory, survivorship for U. longisignalis shifts to the right and the [ISO] increases to 832 mosM. This suggests that this species adapts to acute hypertonic conditions by tolerating elevated internal osmolality. Generally, these observations extend our knowledge about the physiological capabilities of fiddler crabs from different salinity populations across the northern Gulf of Mexico. © 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

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