Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Get the picture?

You all know how excited I was for the Interagency Crab Meeting (see my reaction here). This year's special topic session was 

Crab Surveys in Alaska -
Current and Future Practice

Hanumant Singh from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution was the guest speaker talking about how he applies his imaging prowess to biology and oceanography. His talk was "From Sensors to Platforms, from Data to Information - How technology can help in Benthic Surveys for Fisheries Related Activities" and he showed us wowed us with his awesome images and 3-D mapping of everything from the RMS Titanic (we're not over it yet) to king crabs heading towards Antarctica (remember reading about them here and here?) to sneaky octopus! Seriously, the octopus blew my mind. (Wait for the slow-motion reverse video, starting around 0:27.)

All amazing images aside, his take-home message was that there are several ways to survey marine populations and, while trawl/pot surveys are useful and necessary, for those areas that are too rocky or under sea ice coverage, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) can be a useful and surprisingly accurate tool!

harpooning: not just for mammals anymore!
(retrieving an AUV on that most stable of surfaces: the ice)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday snow [crab] balls!

Need a craft for this holiday season that's easy and inexpensive? And, of course, crab themed? Me too!

I was inspired again by Martha Stewart this year to make snow [crab] ball ornaments for around the house (remember the Martha-inspired glittered crab cards from last year?). I figured making paper ornaments out of recycled paper from my school would be the perfect way for this grad student to spread holiday cheer on little-to-no dough! (Although I will be making cookies too... does that count? Hey-oh!)

recycled papers and old folders = craft supplies

Let's get to it! The paper ornaments I found are so easy to make. They're actually little cubes with pretty designs.

I really like the look of these ornaments, but let's make them crabby!

1. Print out 6 circles (or 3 of these templates):

so pretty!

2. Fold the edges up so that you have nice surfaces to glue your squares together into a cube.

halfway there!
(and yes, those are mini clothes pins)

3. Add a ribbon or fishing line and hang with glee!

For the daring decorator, you can also make this behemoth using 20 circles!

this ball is made up of old Christmas cards -
brilliant! But not crabby enough!!

1. Print out 20 circles (or 10 of these templates):

2. Bend the edges up and glue 5 of the circles together to form a dome. Do the same with 5 other circles so that you have 2 domes. These will be the top and bottom of your ornament.

3. To each dome, attach 5 more circles along the bottom edge to make a sort of jagged row/star shape. Do you see where this is going?

4. Glue the jagged edges of the top and bottom dome together to get your ball! Don't forget to add string or ribbon so you can hang it proudly in your home!

If you want to make your own crab design, here are some blanks:

oh, the joys of creative freedom!

And if you want to make a king crab ball to go with your snow crab balls, click here for the directions to make this crab pod from World Animal Day:

another Martha-inspired, crab-tastic ball!

Happy decorating and
Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Snow crab models

Nothing reinvigorates my love for snow crabs like the Interagency Crab Meeting (I posted about last year's meeting here). So, after a fun and exciting meeting, I checked in with the blog to see what new opilio posts I had in the works, and wouldn't you know it? I just saw a talk about the article I had in my blog queue! Can you believe it?!?

so excited to be at the
World's Largest Truck Stop
Interagency Crab Meeting!

What was the talk, you're asking? Sarah Hardy's "Predicting the distribution and ecological niche of unexploited snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) populations in Alaskan waters: A first open-access ensemble model".

crab: "I'm a model, you know what I mean,
and I do my little turn on the catwalk!"

No, not that kind of model! Sarah and her co-authors ran GIS-based open-access ensemble models. Let me (try to) break that down for you:

GIS-based = data was compiled for all sampling locations using ArcGIS, a mapping program

open-access = snow crab data that is available to anyone using both published and unpublished data

ensemble = they used a combination of 3 model algorithms' outputs in order to get the best model predictions

So what were they predicting? Snow crab presence-absence, abundance, and biomass. The abundance model didn't predict large Bering Sea populations while the biomass models were in line with Bering Sea observations. BUT this makes sense: the results of those two models may be because there were more small crabs in the southern Chukchi Sea (throwing abundance off) while the Bering Sea crabs are larger than the Chukchi crabs (keeping biomass relatively consistent with what's known). Remember we learned about size differences with respect to latitude here, here, and here already!

snow crab get smaller the farther north they are found
(snow crabs NOT to scale!)

I don't want to give away all the secrets, so if you're interested in how the presence-absence model worked out, read the published article here!

model citation:
Hardy, S. M., M. Lindgren, H. Konakanchi, and F. Huettmann. Predicting the distribution and ecological niche of unexploited snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) populations in Alaskan waters: a first open-access ensemble model. Integrative and Comparative Biology 51: 608-622.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What's better than a picture of a yeti crab?

Videos of multiple yeti crabs!!

You'll remember from here that the yeti crab is actually a squat lobster, but that didn't stop me from freaking out about how cute and fluffy they look. And now my friend John (from this post) clued me in on some footage of yetis in their natural environment doing what they do best: looking adorable!

I know the second one doesn't have a catchy tune, but I like the way the fight ends: with more dancing. Way to go, yeti crab! Way to go.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Shopping for a crab lover?

Don't worry, I've got you covered! Whether you're hunting for a Christmas crab gift, a Chanukkah crab present, or simply a winter holiday crab treat, here are some ideas:

Robotic crabs! (And not like those tricky fiddler crab robots.)
These HEXBUG crabs walk around, react to loud noises,
and hide under dark places!

This little gal is another robotic crab, but this time in hermit crab form:
the catch with these Xia-Xia crabs is you can trade their shells!

If you want to go the more hand-crafted route, never fear because Etsy is here!

You can make your own horseshoe crab! So cute and unique!
(If you don't know how to crochet, there's a link to pre-made beauties.)

Finally, for those Krab lovers (fake crab meat really made out of a
ground pollock product called surimi), there's this adorable

OK, so I totally realize that only one of these products I've shown you can even be considered a true crab (that is, a brachyuran crab), which doesn't include hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs, or fake crab "meat". But that's not stopping me from enjoying these crab goodies! So happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

St. Andrew's Day

Happy Saint Andrew's Day!!

I was not aware of this day until I looked at my calendar, but it is Scotland's official national day! It is also the Independence Day of Barbados! Holy celebrations, Crabman!

get it??

In honor of both, lets check out each country's crabs. Similar to Irelend, two of Scotland's predominant crabs are the edible crab Cancer pagurus and the velvet swimming crab Necora puber. We learned about N. puber (aka the devil crab) before when thousands of them washed up along England's shores. Both crabs are widely used in Scottish dishes and have been a greater focus as lobster (Homarus gammarus) stocks have decreased.

a decidedly Scottish brown (or edible) crab

4185 miles away, Barbados is home to some adorable land crabs Gecarcinus ruricola who make an annual migration to the sea to release their clutches (similar to the Christmas Island red crabs we read about). But even cooler than that is their common name: zombie crab!

a zombie crab on the hunt

OK, so they're not really brain munchers (exclusively), but their name is pretty fantastic!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Beach Seining in the Snow

I bet when you looked outside your window on Monday morning, you thought to yourself, "Today is a great day to go beach seining!" I thought that too. Note: this is what it looked like:

A little snow wasn't going to stop the intrepid crew of UAS's Ichthyology class! (I'm the TA for the lab portion of the class.) We went out and braved the cold to bag some live southeast Alaskan fish (as opposed to the preserved ones we have in jars... that have kind of lost their luster... and heart beat).

setting up: check out the fat snowflakes!

Here's the class in action, along with a few crustacean friends too:

Dr. Carolyn Bergstrom directing and Lorelei helping
as Pat, Julienne, and Meghan take the first
(and only successful) seine

I got in on the fun with Eric and Lorelei

hopeful students waiting

picking the net (this was the first haul)

bucket o' herring
(for which we have IACUC approval)

and finally a little shrimp!

Monday, November 14, 2011

AFS in the (Alyeska) house!

Aw yeah, fisheries nerds, it's that time of year again! The Alaska Chapter of the American Fisheries Society is having their annual meeting this week. This year it's being held at the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood (a suburb of Anchorage, if you will). The theme is

Fisheries in Today’s Alaska:
Integrating Fish, Habitat, and People

I'm not able to attend this year, but I can tell you which presentations I'd be heading for if I was:

Marine Invertebrates in Alaska
chaired by Joel Webb
Friday, beginning at 8:40 AM!

Pribilof Domain King Crab Habitat Mapping Pilot Project: Demonstrating Efficacy of Multibeam Sonar Technology for Multiuse Seabed Mapping - Michelle Ridgway, Christopher Popham, Christopher Merculief, and Peter Hickman

Phylogeography of Red King Crabs in Alaskan Waters - W. Stewart Grant and Wei Cheng

Molt Timing and Soft Shell Handling Levels for Male Dungeness Crabs in Southeast Alaska - Gretchen H. Bishop

Hybrid Chionoecetes in the Bering Sea: What We Know and What We Don’t Know - Dan Urban (remember hearing about hybrids here?)

(Read abstracts here.)

There are also some non-crustacean SFOS students presenting, so if you're there, make sure you head to the student presentations too! Which talks were your favorites??

Friday, November 11, 2011

It coulda been a contender

I'm not one for fighting, but there's something about this Crabday's crab that makes me want to put up my dukes:

Boxer Crabs
Lybia sp.

Mickey loves ya

There are a handful anemone-ful of these little crabs, but they all have this awesome trait in common: symbiotic mutualism with sea anemones, who sit happily on the boxer crabs' chelae. The mutually beneficial relationship is the crab gets extra protection and the anemone gets easy food (crab scraps) and a free ride.

Don't mess with this mama!

Don't feel bad for the anemones, thinking that they're being thrust into other animals faces; at least in crab-on-crab battles, there's very little anemone contact. Anemones are used to emphasize claw movements, while actual contact is limited to the crabs' legs.

the full grapple position - legs interlocking and anemones held high

The anemones chosen for crab gloves are Triactis sp. They actually make awesome pom-pons, being waved around to showcase just how fancy fierce the boxer crabs are. Hence the boxer crab's other common name: 'pom-pom crab'. I can feel the spirit now!

Give me a V, dot the I, curl the C, T-O-R-Y!

read more:
Karplus, I., G. C. Fiedler, and P. Ramcharan. 1998. The intraspecific fighting behavior of the Hawaiian boxer crab, Lybia edmondsoni - fighting with dangerous weapons? Symbiosis 24: 287-302.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why I need a lobster cookie cutter...

... like now!

OK, so I don't know how to make a lobster pot pie,
BUT if I had a lobster cookie cutter to cut pie dough
I'd be halfway there!

Don't you wish this was your lunch?
A lobster-shaped quesadilla with all the fixin's!

Last but not least: lobster-shaped cookies!
(I'm also dreaming of those cupcakes, from here.)

So there you have it: three good reasons why I need a lobster cookie cutter.

Friday, November 4, 2011


What's BKC, you ask? Why, it's today's Crabday friend:

Blue King Crab
Paralithodes platypus

The blue king crab (BKC) is called P. platypus because it is the one crab that has webbed dactyls and a duck bill:

Ha, no. No, that's not true. You got me!

BKC range throughout the Bering Sea and down through southeast Alaska. In Juneau, they like to hang out by bronze statues of Alaskan fish and kelp.

nice spines!

Whoa, no! That's not true either! That "crab" is really our artsy BKC geneticist Jen Stoutamore, donning her AMAZING Halloween costume. She loves blues as much as I love opies, if you can believe it!

not a P. platypus but a creative H. sapiens

OK, so seriously, BKC are an important crab in Alaska. They've had several fisheries opened and closed throughout their range. Most notably, the Pribilof Island fishery was closed in 1999, which affects other fisheries that may scoop up blues as bycatch. Because of their population declines, there's been quite a bit of research on 'em popping up: remember these SFOS students' presentations from here?

true blue from Saint Matthew

One population of BKC is all the way up in the Bering Strait, chillin' around Little Diomede Island and King Island (off the Seward Peninsula). That's where Heidi Herter et al. and friends recently looked at size and fecundity of male and female P. platypus.

Alaska with Little Diomede and King Island under the yellow star
and the Pribilof Islands under the dark blue star

They found that these more northerly crabs were smaller than their Pribilof counterparts (which we've seen with snow crabs here), and as such, the females produced less eggs and subsequently released fewer larvae. Interestingly, the decrease in numbers from eggs to larvae (not all embryos make it to the larval stage) was similar between Pribilof BKC and Bering Strait BKC (32% and 30%, respectively).

Oh, BKC, you never fail to amaze me!
(Remember this guy and his eelpout friend from this post?)

Read more:
Herter, H., B. Daly, J. S. Swingle, and C. Lean. 2011. Morphometrics, fecundity, and hatch timing of blue king crabs (Paralithodes platypus) from the Bering Strait, Alaska, USA. Journal of Crustacean Biology 31: 304-312.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mysteries of the (Long Island) Deep

My friend and fellow Southampton College alum, John Carrol, found this dead, partially eaten snail during one of his dives off Long Island:

What happened here?? He answers the mystery at his blog, Chronicles of Zosterabut I’ll give you a hint: it may have something to do with an arms race of sorts (read more about that here, here, or here).

Time it took for four crab species to break into and eat Littorina sitkana snails, grouped by snail size. The numbers above each bar represent prey biomass (mg) over total handling time (minutes) - this measure represents "prey profitability", like how much bang the crabs got for their buck. Crab claw morphology is pictured below each species name. Scale bar is 10 mm.