Do squids breathe through their skin? [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

Matthew A. Birk, Agnieszka K. Dymowska, and Brad A. Seibel

Squids are thought to obtain a large portion of their oxygen via simple diffusion across the skin in addition to uptake at the gills. Although this hypothesis has support from indirect evidence and is widely accepted, no empirical examinations have been conducted to assess the validity of this hypothesis. In this study, we examined cutaneous respiration in two squid species, Doryteuthis pealeii and Lolliguncula brevis, by using a divided chamber to physically separate the mantle cavity and gills from the outer mantle surface. We measured oxygen consumption and ammonia excretion rates in the two compartments and found that, at rest, squids only obtain enough oxygen cutaneously to meet demand of the skin tissue locally (12% of total) and excrete little ammonia across the skin. The majority of oxygen is obtained via the traditional branchial pathway. In light of these findings, we re-examine and discuss the indirect evidence that has supported the cutaneous respiration hypothesis.

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