i-a6d1f86aafc6137bb7545c6cfed0e2fd-Screen shot 2010-08-14 at 7.34.46 PM.pngPhoto: Blue crab being monitored for metabolism using a respirometer, courtesy of Louis and Karen Burnett.

Based on information presented at the Global Change and Global Science: Comparative Physiology in a Changing World conference, August 4-7, 2010 in Westminster, Colorado.

Louis Burnett, professor of biology and director of the Grice Marine Laboratory of the College of Charleston and Karen Burnett, research associate professor at Grice Marine Laboratory have been examining the effects of low oxygen and high carbon dioxide levels on the immune system. The results of their research, presented at the Comparative Physiology meeting and described in a press release from The American Physiological Society, show that fish, oysters, crab and shrimp living in this low oxygen, high carbon dioxide environment have suppressed immune systems compared to animals living in oxygen rich, low carbon dioxide environments.

A normal immune response in these animals involves blood cells clumping to attack the pathogen and lodging in the “lungs” of the fish, the gills. This reduces their ability to exchange oxygen by about 40%. So you can see why living in an environment with low levels of oxygen would pose an even greater challenge to sustaining life during an immune response.

I wonder how the oil spill in the gulf is going to impact the long term immune responses in these marine animals…