So, yeah, all blue crabs are going to croak eventually. But scientists from a team at Rutgers have just discovered that now, we can know a lot more about a blue crab's chance at survival just by checking out its size in its earliest larval stages.
A lot of animals in the wild have a better shot at survival if they're born big, strong and healthy, which depends a lot on how big and strong their parents are. But it gets a little more complicated than that when it comes to blue crabs, according to a new paper.
A team of researchers evaluated blue crabs while they were in their larval stages.
Blue crabs at this point look much different than the full-grown version, and live in waters off the East Coast.
Female blue crab with eggs. (Wikimedia/MDcrabwiki)
The researchers took a look at factors like their size, shape and how strong their swimming appendages were.
To their surprise, they found that a blue crab's status in those stages could be wildly different from their siblings and weren't related to the size of the mother. This makes it different from many other animals, including other crab species.
Now, scientists are excited to conduct further research to figure out what kind of mothers — if not just the big ones — pass along the traits that help blue crabs gain the swimming and feeding skills they need to survive at the tiny larval stages.
Scientists are excited about their findings, since, even though blue crabs are part of an extensive fishery system along the East Coast of the U.S., we don't actually know much about how the animals grow and develop during the larvae stage.
Armed with this new information, researchers and conservationists will be better equipped to help blue crabs thrive in the many fisheries that contain them, especially as climate change threatens to upend their ecosystem. Some of their biggest answers about keeping blue crabs healthy might come from the tiniest of the animals.