The infaunal bivalve Ruditapes decussatus L. was collected from Ria Formosa, Faro, southern Portugal, and subjected to a range of hypoxic conditions and anoxia. Physiological measurements, clearance rates, respiration rates and absorption efficiency were undertaken at slightly different oxygen partial pressures (11, 6, 3 and 1.2 kPa for clearance rates and absorption efficiency and 12, 7, 5, 1.9 and 0.9 kPa for respiration rates). Metabolic rates under hypoxia were measured as oxygen consumption and anoxic metabolism was measured using direct calorimetry. Increasing hypoxia resulted in lower clearance rates, leading to lower ingestion rates and reduced faeces production. Clearance and ingestion rates declined below ~6 kPa, reflecting decreasing ventilation and feeding activity, although complete cessation was not observed even at 1.2 kPa. Under extreme hypoxia (<2 kPa) clams showed an irregular behaviour, with valves either closed or only slightly open, and siphons compressed or retracted. Clearance rate was 12% and respiration rate was 35% of normoxic rates. R. decussatus responded to increasing hypoxia by lowering its metabolic rate. Regulation of respiration was absent through moderate hypoxia (~ 7 kPa), but was observed in the lower hypoxia range (7 to 0.9 kPa). Under anoxia, rates of heat dissipation were 3.6% of normoxic rates. The low anoxic metabolic rate is indicative of a reduced energy expenditure, and this energy-saving mechanism is common in bivalves. Scope for growth was always positive, and even at low oxygen levels clams did not have to utilize their energy reserves. The ability to reduce metabolic costs but still meet the maintenance costs by aerobic catabolism enables R. decussatus to tolerate hypoxia. Such conditions can occur, particularly in the summer, in southern Portugal.
- Ruditapes decussatus