Grad Publication: Emily Grason

Good news everyone! Emily Grason has had her work on rampaging crabs published today in PLoSONE. Congratulate her when you see her. Here's the link! Now for some colorful background from the woman herself:

Alien/s vs. Predator: Rampaging Red Rock Crabs

I have a special warm and fuzzy love for our local red rock crabs (Cancer productus). I suppose most people prefer Dungeness crabs, but those people clearly haven’t had to actually handle live crabs.  Dungies are nuts! They’re totally irrational and they just flip out at you in an incoherent manner for absolutely no reason – flailing about with their pointy, pointy legs (1). Rock crabs make sense – sure they can snap your thumb off if you aren’t really paying attention, but you know when they’re going to try. Rock crabs are also more fun to watch.  As part of my master’s research at Shannon Point Marine Center, which is affiliated with Western Washington University, I did a series of experiments where I got to watch rock crabs rampage – in the name of science, of course.  The results of those experiments were published today in PLoSONE.
Red rock crabs are extremely cooperative experimental
subjects – including high fives all around!

My Advisor, Ben Miner, and I were interested in finding out how the introduction of two species of non-native marine snails might be affected by native rock crabs.  These crabs love them some native snails for dinner, but what do they think of invasive snails?  Maybe they don’t even recognize the snails as food (ha! fat chance).  AND! The snails actually eat oysters for a living – as do crabs!

OMG, IIGP (2)!

So, what happens when a native red rock crab wanders into an oyster bed that is invaded by non-native drills? MOREOVER! In the Pacific Northwest, we have both native (Olympia Oysters – Ostrea lurida) and non-native oysters (Pacific Oysters – Crassostrea gigas). Does the crab care at all? Well, you can read the paper and find out - because it’s OPEN ACCESS, baby!

OK fine, here are the distilled messages:
·      Rock crabs don’t care which species of juvenile oyster you put in front of them, they destroy both species with equal zeal
·      BUT, crabs would much rather eat oysters than either species of snail – even though they are able to eat snails and oysters at about the same rate
·      So, oysters might actually distract crabs from doing their job in invasive snail control.

Science is just as fancy as you think it is. This crab had the option to choose between x’s (Pacific Oysters) and o’s (Olympia Oysters). While the crab in this photo looks a little intimidated by the horde of oysters, I assure you, the crab had the upper hand (claw?) at the end of the day.

And, because I know you can’t wait to learn more about my thrilling work on the interactions between these sensible crabs and their prey (native and non-native), here is a link to a previous paper on what the snails think about the crabs (3).

More fun battle royales (Battles royale?) will be forthcoming!

References and Miscellany:

(1)    OOOh, it turns out this is why their legs are so painfully pointy.
(2)    Naturally, this stands for “OMG, Invaded Intra-Guild Predation!”
(3)    To hear this paper described in the same tone of questionable authority/humor, see my previous Christmas post on Rah Rah Radula!


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Congrats Autumn 2018 Graduates!