This study presents the first evidence that, in invertebrates, the anaerobic endproduct lactate has an alarm signal function and induces metabolic and behavioural responses as in the anuran Bufo marinus. In support of this function, behavioural hypothermia was demonstrated in the shore crab Carcinus maenas. The animals moved to a cooler environment when exposed to hypoxic conditions. A decrease in preferred temperature of the same magnitude was also found when normoxic animals were injected with an iso-osmotic lactate solution resulting in a haemolymph concentration of approximately 12 mmol l-1. Under normoxic (PO2=>18 kPa) and moderately hypoxic conditions (PO2=12 kPa), injection of this lactate solution also caused a significant increase in the rate of oxygen consumption (100 and 50 % respectively). The increase in the rate of oxygen consumption was smaller and delayed, but lasted longer, under hypoxic conditions compared with normoxic conditions. Low but significant correlations between levels of lactate and levels of adrenaline, octopamine and tryptophan suggest the involvement of biogenic amines in the mediation of the signal.

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