Molting as a mechanism of depuration of metals in the fiddler crab, Uca pugnax

Mar Environ Res. 2007 Dec;64(5):556-62. doi: 10.1016/j.marenvres.2007.04.009. Epub 2007 May 18.


Metal distributions in the exoskeleton and soft tissues of the fiddler crab, Uca pugnax, were examined during intermolt and immediate postmolt to determine if distribution of the metals changed prior to molting and to determine if molting is a feasible mechanism to depurate metals. Fiddler crabs were collected from two locations in New Jersey, a highly contaminated site and a relatively clean environment. The crabs from the contaminated site had higher concentrations of metals in their soft tissues for Cu, significantly higher concentrations of Pb in their soft tissues and carapace, but did not have any significant differences in concentrations of Zn in comparison to their conspecifics from the relatively clean site during intermolt. Crabs from the contaminated site has significantly higher levels of Cu, Pb, and Zn in both their soft tissues and exuvia immediately after molting. Crabs from both sites shifted copper and zinc from the carapace into the soft tissues prior to molting. Lead distribution shifted from the soft tissues to the exoskeleton prior to molting in the population from the contaminated site but shifted from the exoskeleton into the soft tissues for the relatively clean site. Average percent of the total body burden eliminated during the molting process for the highly contaminated site varied with each metal, 12% Cu, 76% Pb, and 22% Zn. Average percent of the total body burden eliminated during molting process for the relatively clean site also varied with each metal and was significantly lower than the conspecifics from the contaminated site, 3% Cu, 56% Pb, and 8% Zn. Molting can reduce overall body burdens significantly and is a feasible mechanism to depurate lead.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brachyura / chemistry
  • Brachyura / physiology*
  • Copper / analysis
  • Lead / analysis
  • Male
  • Molting / physiology*
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Zinc / analysis


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Lead
  • Copper
  • Zinc