Dungeness crabs in the Pacific Ocean dissolve due to high levels of acid
Dungeness crab shells in the Pacific Ocean dissolve due to high levels of acid in coastal water
- Researchers analyzed acid levels in parts of the Pacific Ocean from 2016
- They found high levels that are dissolving young Dungeness crabs
- Low pH levels were also detected, resulting in sensory problems.
Chemical changes in the Pacific Ocean are damaging a valuable species of crab.
Experts discovered that an increase in acidity is dissolving the shells of Dungeness crabs in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.
The study notes that these young crabs cannot build strong shells, leaving them vulnerable to predators and hampering their ability to float on the surface.
The data also shows low pH levels, which is damaging small hairy larval receptors and causing sensory problems.
Experts discovered that an increase in acidity is dissolving the larval shell of Dungeness (stock) crabs in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia
Ocean acidification is the result of an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The ocean naturally absorbs excess gas, which changes the pH levels in the water.
The altered balance hinders crabs’ ability to develop strong shells.
Other studies have found that acidification will also make it difficult for other fish to detect predators.
The findings add to concerns about Dungeness’ future, as atmospheric carbon dioxide, on the rise due to the combustion of fossil fuels, is absorbed by the Pacific Ocean and acidification increases.
The study’s researchers, which was funded by NOAA, expected this to happen, but “much later in this century,” said study co-author Richard Feely. CNN.
The data is based on a 2016 survey of coastal waters around the Pacific Northwest that analyzed the Dungeness larva.
“If crabs are already affected, we really need to make sure we start paying attention to various components of the food chain before it’s too late,” said Nina Bednarsek, the lead author among 13 contributing scientists.
Dungeness sustains commercial seafood crops on the West Coast, generally worth more than $ 200 million annually, and is a pillar for tribal and recreational crabbers.
The study notes that these young crabs (top right) cannot build strong shells, leaving them vulnerable to predators and impeding their ability to float on the surface. The data also shows low pH levels, which is damaging small hairy larvae receptors, resulting in sensory problems.
They have thrived in coastal waters that in recent years have been found to have acidification hot spots in the oceans.
Bednarsek and his colleagues, for the first time, documented that some Dungeness larvae in the wild already had frayed and bent shells, described in their magazine article as ‘severe shell dissolution’, and that these larvae were typically smaller in size.
They also found damage to hair structures that act as sensory receptors, and researchers hypothesize that this could lead to slower movements, problems swimming and other problems.
Although the loss of creatures would affect the ecosystem, Dungeness crabs are a source of food and have created many jobs for those living in the area.
“If the crabs are already affected, we really need to make sure we pay much more attention to the various components of the food chain before it’s too late,” added lead author Nina Bednarsek.
The authors of this new study say that more research is needed to understand what the new findings may mean for the future of the Dungeness crab as the Pacific coastal waters continue to absorb more carbon dioxide.
If the acid levels remain at a constant level, not only will the deposits dissolve, but they could also deform.
This will complicate the crab molt and increases the chances of death during the molt.