(ORDO NEWS) — Biologists have discovered a means by which crabs can survive in acidic waters near hydrothermal vents.
Water-spewing hydrothermal vents are mostly found along mid-ocean ridges.
Together with water, dissolved salts and other substances enter the ocean from the earth’s crust, often giving acidic properties to water.
Animals live near many of them, including crabs near shallow hydrothermal vents off the southeast coast of Kuishantao Island, off Taiwan.
They are the only multicellular permanent inhabitants of the site due to the extremely acidic environment rich in hydrogen sulfide.
To find out how the crab survives in such an unfavorable environment (hydrogen sulfide is toxic to most animals), the researchers collected samples of the water in which they lived and conducted experiments with the crabs caught there.
The authors also caught a few crabs and brought them to the laboratory for closer examination.
It turned out that crabs have unique gills located under the shell – they were able to oxidize sulfide to thiosulfate and bind it to hypotaurine, which led to the formation of thiotaurine, which is much less toxic than hydrogen sulfide.
The bacteria living in the gills then took up the thiotaurine and used it as an energy source, thereby making it even less toxic to the animal.
As a result, the crab receives oxygen from the water and is not poisoned by hydrogen sulfide. What’s more, the scientists suspect that the symbiont bacteria that metabolize thiotaurine also secrete nutrients for the crab.
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