Would Crabs Drop, Cover, and Hold On?

Memorizing facts and following protocols are not the only things that make up a Biological Scientist like myself, but creativity is also an extremely important trait. This week, we put this to the test in a free-for-all experiment testing shore-crab-behaviour. The experiments addressed questions we had about the nature of how things work and in testing the hypotheses we drew conclusions and discussed further implementations these findings. In pairs, we each exercised our creative muscles and executed experiments ranging from where crabs would retreat to when exposed to Beyoncé music and calming sounds and comparing whether crabs preferred chips or caramel popcorn. Although you may question our logic in assessing such questions, exploration into a new realm of shore-crab behaviour our any Science for that matter may always seem ludicrous at first.

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Along with my partner, we decided to look into the earthquake response of crabs. Living in Vancouver, we are all aware of the imminent overdue earthquake and knowing how crabs will react to this violent shaking on beaches can potentially give us insight  into how nature intends for us to react. In our experiment, we used a low and high intensity shake to simulated the shaking of an earthquake for one minute and crabs placed in a non-shaking acted as a control. In all of these three treatments, half of the 10 crabs were further divided into another group of crabs that would also experience falling debris in 10 second intervals (in this case we used dead mussel shells). After the crabs underwent one of the six trials, they were place in a racetrack with meter stick barriers to measure how far they would travel in 30 seconds.


For the most part, crabs would not run in a panic once placed in the racetrack but instead, inched forward to be just out of reach from my hand. A couple of crabs from each treatment however, would almost run the length of the meter stick as an escape response while other remained highly defensive and violent against my hand that was blocking the entrance to the racetrack. We learned that shaking crabs in a dish is a great way to practice keeping a rhythm and tone your arms but we did not find a significant correlation between the shaking and falling debris with an earthquake response. Although our findings were not ground breaking, we found a slight relationship between the dropping of debris and how this would cause the crabs to move farther. At this time, earthquake response of invertebrates is uncharted territory and further implications of our research would give us insight into how the ecosystem will be shaped after “the Big One.”

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