Coenobita Gills

The gills of Coenobita and Birgus are modified for air-breathing but are reduced in number and size and have a comparatively small surface area. The branchiostegal lungs of Coenobita (which live in gastropod shells) are very small but are well vascularized and have a thin blood/gas barrier. Coenobita has developed a third respiratory organ, the abdominal lung, that is formed from highly vascularized patches of very thin and intensely-folded dorsal integument. Oxygenated blood from this respiratory surface is returned to the pericardial sinus via the gills (in parallel to the branchiostegal circulation). Birgus, which does not inhabit a gastropod shell, has developed a highly complex branchiostegal lung that is expanded laterally and evaginated to increase surface area. The blood/gas diffusion distance is short and oxygenated blood is returned directly to the pericardium via pulmonary veins. We conclude that the presence of a protective mollusc shell in the terrestrial hermit crabs has favoured the evolution of an abdominal lung and in its absence a branchiostegal lung has been developed. [1]

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Overview of the anatomy of a land hermit crab (Coenobita)

1 The morphology and vasculature of the respiratory organs of terrestrial hermit crabs (Coenobita and Birgus): gills, branchiostegal lungs and abdominal lungs
C.A. Farrellya, P. Greenawayb, ,
a 32 Tramway Pde. Beaumaris, Vic. 3193, Australia
b School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, N.S.W. 2052, Australia