Adaptations to salinity are reviewed throughout development in both species of the genus Homarus. Some populations of homarid lobsters are known to inhabit coastal and estuarine areas where salinity fluctuates. Salinity tolerance varies during development, with 50 % lethal salinities (LS(50)) ranging from approximately 15–17 in larvae to approximately 12 in postlarvae and 10 in adults. Larval and adult lobsters can avoid low-salinity areas using behavioural strategies. When exposed to low salinity, the capacity to osmoregulate varies with development. Embryos are osmoconformers and are osmotically protected by the egg membranes. Larvae are also osmoconformers, and the pattern of osmoregulation changes at metamorphosis to hyper-regulation, which is retained throughout the later stages up to the adult stage. Exposure to low salinity increases the activity of Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase in postlarvae and later stages. The level of osmoregulation evaluated through the osmoregulatory capacity (the difference between haemolymph and medium osmolalities) is negatively affected by low temperature (2 degrees C). The variations in haemolymph osmolality resulting from osmoconforming or partial osmoregulation are compensated by intracellular iso-osmotic regulation. Neuroendocrine control of osmoregulation appears in postlarvae and seems to involve the crustacean hyperglycaemic hormone. In adult lobsters, the gills appear to have a respiratory function only, and extracellular osmoregulation is effected by the epipodites, with the addition of the branchiostegites at low salinity. These organs are present at hatching. Transmission electron microscopy and immunolocalization of Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase reveal that the epipodites become functional in larvae and that the branchiostegites become functional in postlarvae. An integrated series of events links the appearance of osmoregulatory tissues, the increase in Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase activity, the occurrence in postlarvae of hyper-regulation at low salinity and the increase in salinity tolerance. Further ecological and physiological studies are proposed for a better understanding of the adaptive significance of the ontogeny of osmoregulation in lobsters.

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