28 Feb 2007

Domestic Abuse in Crayfish

Dear Blue Lobster:

My yabby recently molted (is that the correct terminology?) And looked really good with its new and enlarged body but then last night I noticed that both arms and most of his legs were missing! He has a partner living with him and they get along fine. Would the loss of his arms and legs be the result of an attack? He is much bigger than his partner and now he has only one back leg on his left side and two back legs on his right and he seems to be struggling to move and around and eat.. Is there anything I can do to help it and how long til the legs grow back?

Thank you for your time.

Lizzie Loh

Dear Gentle Sir:

Indeed, molting is the proper terminology for what scientists call ecdysis, the process by which an arthropod sheds its exoskeleton in order to grow. It is a dangerous process for your cray and can often result in dropped limbs, depression, and even suffocation.

In your yabby's case of missing legs, however, it sounds like domestic abuse is at play.

Domestic abuse in pets — especially crustaceans — is a little-heard-of and oft-ignored issue. It is thought that among arthropods alone, negelct and abuse account for 90% of injuries and death. Most forms of abuse are passive; that is, the owner doesn't realize they are mistreating their animals. In some cases, like yours, the abuse is carried out by fellow crustaceans.

In domestic relationships, molting is a time when tensions mount due to the preparation for the molt and subsequent recovery. When the molting cray is naked and vulnerable, the other cray will often tear limbs off or otherwise physically abuse its partner in the hours before a new exoskeleton forms.

In the future when one of your crays is about to molt, isolate it until its new exoskeleton has set. You can do this by means of a fry box, a separate aquarium, or a tank divider. You can tell the cray will molt when it begins refusing food and remains idle most of the time. Either that, or it's about to die.

In future molts, your cray's limbs should regrow, though they may be undersized. After a few more molts they will funtion normally and your cray will be healthy. In the meantime, with its reduced mobility, it might be a good idea to isolate the cray or feed it with chopsticks directly to its mouth.

Good luck on its next molt!

14 Feb 2007

300 New Crustaceans from the Phillipines!

Dear Blue Lobster:

my bros told me they discovered some new kind of giant lobster near the phillipines. what can you tell me about that?

asian pride!

Dear Gentle Sir:

French researchers have documented hundreds of species of crustaceans from observations made between 2004 and 2005, up to 300 of which may be new to science. Most of the new species found were shrimp and prawn, but there were several crabs and lobsters as well. It is expected to take five years to categorize the new species using molecular testing.

In the meantime here are some physiological reports that showcase some very unique and exciting characteristics.

  • Banana Shrimp. A stunning bright yellow, this species has a curious adaptation: its claws have evolved to pick out detritus from deep within coral, so its front arms resemble long yellow bananas. It grows to a length of one meter.

  • Chameleon Shrimp. This species can change its body color to match its surroundings. It does this by releasing chemicals into its blood that color its flesh, visible through its clear shell. The process takes less than half a second and can be repeated as often as necessary until the shrimp swims away. It also changes its colors based on mood, especially while breeding.

  • Easter Shrimp. Actually a prawn, this species is a dark purple hue and has a heavily segmented tail which resembles eggs squeezed end-to-end. Its young cling to its tail by means of a mucus secretion and feed on microplankton.

  • Spike Ulang (Tagalog for "spiked lobster.") Growing to lengths of 1.2 meters, The Ulang has thorny protrusions along its rostrum, head, thorax, and claws and turns a bright orange during mating season. The female devours the male alive after it has deposited its sperm in the female's cloaca. A pod of about thirty of these creature were observed and it is thought that they form social groups during the dry season.

  • Sponge Crab. The Sponge Crab is a member of the Portunidae family but is unique among them in that the female gathers and cultivates sponge in its cloaca after every mating season. In this way it prevents unwanted fertilization by males until its brood has matured.

  • The Z Crab. The Z Crab, dubbed so by Dr. Yuri Zhukov of the Chiba University in Russia, is a medium-sized member of Brachyura with oddly-shaped claws that are thought to be used to attract mates. Dr. Zhukov reportedly keeps a live Z Crab specimen in his home aquarium.

Research continues...