Stories tagged crabs

Nov
13
2008

I have a tiny black belt: And a condo in Cabo. I'll totally take you there sometime, babe.
I have a tiny black belt: And a condo in Cabo. I'll totally take you there sometime, babe.Courtesy Junglecat
Australian ecologists have recently been observed soiling themselves and drooling over lying crabs.

Honestly, people. Lying about crabs, now that might be something worth getting excited over… But this? Whatever.

What the ecologists have observed, to be precise, are fiddler crabs that are “dishonest” about their own physical prowess, acting as though they are stronger fighters than they actually are.

Fiddler crabs have two pinching claws, but, in males, one of the claws grows to be much, much larger than the other one. This larger, stronger claw is used to attract mates, and to fight off male competitors. If a crab’s fighting claw is ripped off, a new one will grow back. The researchers noticed, however, that some male crabs were growing new claws that were as large as their old claws, but were also significantly weaker, and lacking serrated “teeth.” The new claws were “cheaper” for the crabs to grow (that is, they required less energy and food from the crab), and other crabs were unable to tell them apart from “real” claws.

It’s like the crabs had figured out that they could stick up a bank with a fake gun—the weapon is cheaper, and ultimately harmless, but it looks like its dangerous.

The scientists are excited because it’s rare that they’re able to study animal “dishonesty” so fully—here they can measure a crab’s claw size and strength, and the crab’s ability to keep itself from being pulled out of its burrow, and they can observe how successful individual crabs are in acquiring a mate.

To this, I say, “Whatev.” I’m an expert at acting tougher than I really am, and Australian ecologists act like I don’t even exist. Despite my weak limbs, my tactic of scuttling around sideways and circling my opponents while waving my hands in the air always, I say always, works. They don’t know what hit them (and it certainly wasn’t me). And then it’s just me and the ladies.

(Although the ladies are usually always kind of freaked out by the scuttling thing too. But the first part of the strategy remains sound.)

Jun
27
2008

Grickle grackle: grickle grackle grickle grackle grickle grackle grickle grackle grickle grackle.
Grickle grackle: grickle grackle grickle grackle grickle grackle grickle grackle grickle grackle.Courtesy Kevin Cole
The age of the crustaceans is upon us, and, like the elves before us, it is time for we chordates to fade into legend. Though some of us may linger in this fallen world, much that was good will have been lost. The air will be full of, like, clicking, and eyestalks will be all the rage, and everything will smell like ammonia.

And, oh yes, there will be tentacles. And before you get all sassy about crustaceans not having tentacles, shut your word-holes and open your listen-orifices—I ent just talking about crustaceans. In this damp, horrifying future, the crustaceans will be accompanied by their nightmare 6th cousins: the mollusks.

It’s the presence of mollusca that is most frightening to me. I can not imagine a crustacean that couldn’t be handled with a claw hammer, but mollusks…they’re something else entirely. Huge, clever brains, instant biological camouflage, boneless bodies, marine gigantism, beaks…

As ocean temperatures rise with global climate change, many marine populations are predicted to shift dramatically from fish to crabs, lobsters, and squid.

Fish populations have also been observed switching from cold water to warm water species, away from bottom feeders, and trending towards smaller species.

The whole thing, it’s thought, is primarily the result of a change in where in the ocean plankton is being consumed; small, warm-water species of fish are eating the plankton (itty bitty sea life) higher up in the water column, so less plankton settles down for bottom feeding fish. As the bottom feeders die off, invertebrates like mollusks and crustaceans move in.

Warming oceans are probably the main cause here, but researchers say that over fishing could be a contributor as well. As larger fish become less common due to fishing, there are fewer predators for small fish, which eat off the plankton high in the water table…

Prepare for the worst. Remember: claw hammers for crustacea, marshmallow skewers for mollusca, and an acceptance of inevitable death by pinchers for the rest of us.