Hemocyanin is present throughout the decapod crustacean's life, usually as one-hexamer and two-hexamer oligomers. Hemocyanins of some decapod crustaceans undergo changes in subunit composition and oxygen affinity during development. Maternal hemocyanin is taken up from the hemolymph via endocytosis by the oocyte. Embryo hemocyanin differs in subunit composition from hemocyanin of oocyte and adult crab and may represent the onset of hemocyanin synthesis. Complex changes in expression of hemocyanin subunits occur through megalopa and early juvenile stages of the crab Cancer magister, culminating in the pattern of adult hemocyanin. The influences of food availability and temperature on development, growth and hemocyanin ontogeny in early juvenile C. magister have been studied. Crabs were raised in warm or cold sea water and fed high or low levels of food for 6 months. While intermolt period was shorter in crabs fed high food levels, especially those raised in warm water, crabs reared in cold water with high food levels attained the largest sizes. Thus increased food availability affects growth more than increased temperature. Adult hemocyanin appeared at about the same number of weeks after the start of the experiment for crabs in the warm water/high food, warm water/low food and cold water/high food groups, even though warm water/low food crabs had molted fewer times. Crabs in the cold water/low food group expressed adult hemocyanin much later than the other groups. Molt stage and maturation from juvenile to adult are not absolutely coupled, and food availability has a greater influence than temperature on hemocyanin ontogeny.

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