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Variation in oxygen consumption among ‘living fossils’ (Mollusca: Polyplacophora)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 October 2012

Nicholas Carey*
Queen's University Belfast, School of Biological Sciences, Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 7BL, Northern Ireland Queen's University Belfast Marine Laboratory, 12–13 The Strand, Portaferry, County Down, BT22 1PF, Northern Ireland
Alexander Galkin
Queen's University Belfast, School of Biological Sciences, Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 7BL, Northern Ireland
Patrik Henriksson
The University of British Columbia, Department of Zoology, 6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada CML, Institute of Environmental Sciences, Leiden University, PO Box 9518, 2300 RA, Leiden, The Netherlands
Jeffrey G. Richards
The University of British Columbia, Department of Zoology, 6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada
Julia D. Sigwart
Queen's University Belfast, School of Biological Sciences, Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 7BL, Northern Ireland Queen's University Belfast Marine Laboratory, 12–13 The Strand, Portaferry, County Down, BT22 1PF, Northern Ireland
Correspondence should be addressed to: N. Carey, Queen's University Belfast, Marine Laboratory, 12–13 The Strand, Portaferry, BT22 1PF, Northern Ireland email:


Polyplacophoran molluscs (chitons) are phylogenetically ancient and morphologically constrained, yet multiple living species are often found co-occurring within widely overlapping ecological niches. This study used two sets of experiments to compare interspecific variation among co-occurring species in the North Atlantic (Ireland) and separately in the North Pacific (British Columbia, Canada) chiton faunas. A complementary review of historical literature on polyplacophoran physiology provides an overview of the high level of metabolic variability in this group of ‘living fossils’. Species examined in de novo experiments showed significant variation in oxygen consumption both under air-saturated water conditions (normoxia), and in response to decreasing oxygen availability (hypoxia). Some species demonstrate an ability to maintain constant oxygen uptake rates despite hypoxia (oxyregulators), while others oxyconform, with uptake rate dependent on ambient oxygen tension. These organisms are often amalgamated in studies of benthic communities, yet show obvious physiological difference that may impact their response or tolerance to environmental change.

Research Article
Copyright © Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2012

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