The freshwater amphipod Gammarus pulex is widely distributed in freshwater streams and rivers of Europe. This amphipod also has isolated hypogean populations, which are transparent in appearance, suggestive of adaptation to their cave environment. Since cave habitats are often food limited, physiological adaptations have been observed that reduce the energy expenditure of cave organisms. Osmoregulation is an energetically expensive mechanism that allows gammarids to survive in fresh water. This study tested the hypothesis that differences in osmoregulation existed between hypogean and epigean populations of G. pulex. The osmoregulatory parameters measured were haemolymph cation concentrations, water and sodium fluxes and gill Na /K -ATPase activity. The hypogean G. pulex had significantly lower haemolymph sodium and potassium concentrations, but had a significantly higher haemolymph ammonium concentration than the epigean G. pulex. The low food availability in the hypogean environment was considered to be the underlying cause for these differences in haemolymph ion concentrations.
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Vol. 31 • No. 2