The terrestrial red crab Gecarcoidea natalis undertakes an annual breeding migration and must sustain locomotion for prolonged periods. The migrating crabs must travel a specific distance in a fixed time and can either walk at a constant speed or walk faster for short periods and then pause to feed or rest. To simulate the potential differences between continuous and intermittent locomotion during the migration, red crabs were sampled after walking at a voluntary speed for 5 or 20 min without pausing or after 20 min of enforced walking intermittently at approximately twice that speed. The respiratory and metabolic status of the crabs was investigated during the different exercise regimes to assess which strategy might be more advantageous during the migration. The gills and lungs appeared to function similarly in gas exchange, and the PO2 in the haemolymph was 8.2 kPa which fully saturated the haemocyanin with O2. The uptake of O2 by red crabs was diffusion-limited and the diffusion coefficient (Ldiff) varied from 0.53 in resting crabs to 0. 8 post-exercise. Post-exercise, red crabs experienced a mixed respiratory/metabolic acidosis which was greatest (0.2 pH units) in crabs walking intermittently, i.e. at a higher speed. Haemolymph l-lactate concentrations peaked at 5 mmol l-1 immediately post-exercise in the intermittent exercise group, whereas after 20 min of continuous exercise haemolymph l-lactate continued to increase, reaching a maximum of 2.5 mmol l-1 at 1 h post-exercise. l-Lactate recovered slowly to basal levels within 5 h. The maximum rate of l-lactate clearance from the haemolymph was only 1.75 mmol l-1 h-1, and short pauses in exercise were insufficient for substantial l-lactate reoxidation. Exercise regimes in the laboratory were within the locomotor speeds determined for migrating red crabs, which overall have a mean walking speed close to their aerobic limit but periodically pause and also exceed this limit by three- to fourfold.

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