Mud Crabs at the Jersey Shore
Do you know about these???
The ocean is a most wondrous place to visit, but what if you had to live in it? To put it mildly, it would be quite difficult. Think about it -- the animals that do live in our ocean have to constantly deal with many challenges including getting enough oxygen to breathe, finding food, or worse yet, becoming food! Would you be up to the task? Luckily for them (and us) marine animals have developed many ways to adapt to their environment to survive, and many of these adaptations are quite amazing.
Take the mud crab for example. Here are some fun facts:
The mud crab makes its home in the bottom of bays and estuaries where the water tends to be murky. If you were a mud crab, you most likely wouldn't be able to see your own claw let alone your main predator, the blue crab. Yet mud crabs persist.
The mud crab has developed a way to steer clear of hungry blue crabs in its 'crab-eat-crab' world. Given their penchant for living in muddy waters, they can't see their enemies coming -- but they can smell them. Earlier this year, researchers discovered that mud crabs have the extraordinary ability to use chemical cues to pick up the scent of the blue crab.
Using sensory organs on their antennas, mouthparts, and legs, mud crabs get a smelly message that is loud and clear: hide, or be eaten.
Furthermore, the scent is extra powerful if the blue crab just ate a mud crab. This invisible, underwater messaging system has far-reaching implications. Just a single blue crab eating one mud crab can influence interactions up and down the marine food chain. This discovery regarding chemical cues may also help conservationists better manage crab and oyster fisheries in the future.
For more 'fun facts' about fascinating ocean creatures, visit the NJ Sea Grant Consortium!