Thursday, March 31, 2011

Snow crab moms get no respect

Do you ever just wish your kids would listen to you? “Don’t hit your sister.” “Practice for your piano recital.” “Don’t stick your finger there.” “Hatch right now!”

"I told you not to eat your sister!"

Well, you’re not alone. A new paper has come out in the Journal of Crustacean Biology (I may have squeeled when I saw this year’s purple cover) about Chionoecetes opilio larval release. Penny Kuhn, Sara Graham, and Jae Choi looked at whether or not hatch timing of embryos is dependent on their mothers’ presence. You see, some crab moms, like Sesarma cinereum and Uca pugilator, can control larval release. They may send signals to their embryos to start releasing enzymes important in the hatching process. Conversely, embryos of Dyspanopeus sayi and Rhithropanopeus harrisii may release their own pheromones to instigate hatching.

Kuhn et al. wanted to know which control was the case for snow crab larval release: mom versus embryo. They did this by detaching embryos from female snow crab clutches and placing them in completely dark tanks with ambient water (to mimic being hidden within the mothers’ abdominal flaps). Larval release was monitored for both attached and detached embryos and found to be “relatively synchronous”, meaning that the mothers don’t initiate hatching. In fact, detached embryos were able to successfully hatch up to 2 weeks after they were removed from the clutch!

hatching of attached and detached eggs from one of the study female opies:
see how the peaks are pretty consistant/synchronized?!?

Previously, hatching synchrony had been seen up to 10 days post-removal in Homarus gammarus and only up to 5 days post-removal in Rhithropanopeus harrisii, so the matched hatch-timing 14 days after separation from mom is pretty impressive. Clearly, snow crab babies were not relying on any message or signal the moms might have given.

So snow crab moms may have no say when their larvae are released into the ocean; they just get no respect!

Mom v Embryo:
Kuhn, P. S., S. Graham, and J. S. Choi. 2011. Influence of senescent algae, temperature, tides, currents, and embryo detachment on Chionoecetes opilio (snow crab) larval release. Journal of Crustacean Biology 31: 100-105.
(The bulk of the paper also looked at different potential triggers of larval release: senescent algae, tides, currents. I don’t want to give any more away though, so you’ll have to read it yourself! Also, you can find the references for the other cited research in the Kuhn et al. paper.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

And the winner is:

Whoa, not that fast!

Last week I challenged you to come up with a new phrase for the acronym HPLC to replace High Performance Liquid Chromatography (what I'm using to quantify levels of methyl farnesoate in my male snow crabs). I received a lot of really clever and fun phrases, and it was really hard to choose. Here are some of my favorites:

His Pancreas Loves Cabbage
I thought I was the only one who loves cabbage,
but Joel set me straight.

Hot ParaLithodid Crab
I hope I represented Jen's vision correctly:
"a picture of a blue king crab (Paralithodes platypus) in those Alexander McQueen lobster shoe things
that Lady Gaga wore, being chased by photographers"

Harry Potter's Love Child
Poor Ron.

Hypercapnic Plankton Lacking Calcium
I was very impressed with this phrase, both for its
use of the word "hypercapnic" and its scientific accuracy.

Horned Parasaurolophuses Love Conifers
My neice loves dinosaurs (dare I say it) more than I love crabs!
The parasaurolophus is said to have been the loudest dino,
hence the enthusiastic remark.

Humongously Parasitized Lithodid Crabs
This lithodid has one heck of a rhizocephalan infestation!

Homely Pixies Lurk in Canada
HAHAHAHA! Oh, Canada...
my neighbor to the east, really.

Without further ado, the winner is:

Hiphopopotamus produces lyrical conception...
"Sea Lion Woman" went above and beyond with this HPLC poem inspired by
Flight of the Conchords! (warning, there's 1 swear in that video)
Read the whole poem in the previous blog's comments.
(baby picture from

Congratulations Sea Lion Woman! Your creativity just earned you a new keychain!

Thank you to all who submitted!

Monday, March 21, 2011

H to the P to the L to the C


My life has become focused around my HPLC = High Performance Liquid Chromatography.

the HPLC, in all its glory

It's what I'm using to quantify levels of methyl farnesoate in my male snow crabs. (Read more about it here, here, and here.) I'm using the methods from Borst and Tsukimura, 1991; this means that each sample takes a few minutes to run in order to get peaks that tell me how much methyl farnesoate was in each hemolymph sample (more on that later).

So with all this time on my hands, I've been coming up with different phrases for the acronym HPLC:

Hairy Prawns Love Conditioner

Horace Pilfered Lucy's Cup

So here's where the giveaway enters:

Come up with a great phrase for HPLC and win this adorable crab keychain!!

cute glass bead and wire-woven key chain,
purchased at the Southeast Waffle Company, Juneau

The Deal:
  1. Comment on this post with your HPLC phrase (let's keep it family-friendly).
  2. I would say one entry per e-mail, but I don't want to limit any creative juices, so have at it with as many clever phrases as you can come up with!
  3. Giveaway closes: Sunday March 27th at midnight Alaskan time
  4. One winner will be chosen by me based on creativity and amount of laughter it brings my day.
  5. Prize ships: Anywhere! So if Lindsay in Australia and Kat in England and Kasey in Puerto Rico come up with anything, they are eligible!
  6. (I don't want to strong-arm anyone into becoming a follower, so that won't be a factor. But I would appreciate it if you were a follower nonetheless. Thanks!)
Good luck! You could be this happy in the near future:

Boo, admiring the hand-crafted excellence of your future key chain

Borst, D. W., and B. Tsukimura. 1991. Quantification of methyl farnesoate levels in hemolymph by high-performance liquid chromatography. Journal of Chromatography 545: 71-78.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Saint Patrick's Day!

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you!

My mom’s side of the family is 100% Irish (OK, Irish-American, from Chicago) so I have a lot of Irish pride. (And Chicago pride.) To celebrate, I wanted to showcase some Irish crabs:

• Brown crab Cancer pagurus

• Green crab (Hey-hey! Go green!) Carcinus maenas – see Bear Grylls munch a live one here, poor critter (the crab, not Bear. I mean, really, surviving Ireland? Step 1: find pub. Step 2: order a pint...)

• Velvet crab Necora puber

• Spider crab Maja squinado

photo credits: C. pagurus, C. maenas, and N. puber taken off of Cork by jb1562 from Flickr;
M. squinado on  a lobster pot from

Ireland’s inshore fishery (within 12 miles of the coast) also includes lobster Homarus gammarus, Dublin bay prawns, shrimp, crayfish, mussels, scallops, clams, and whelks. The most common counties that participate in these inshore fisheries are Cork, Kerry, Donegal and Galway. My family is from County Cork (the Mahoney’s), so I’d like to think that maybe they feasted on some of these guys back in the day.

Portán go Brách!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Crab Apple Salad

What do you think of when you hear “crab apple”?


I grew up with a crab apple tree in my front yard,
but this picture was taken in Anchorage (December '06)

Or this?

find this shirt here

Well I think of this delicious recipe! (You see what I did there? With the ‘apple’ and ‘crab’ put together for hilarious corny puns a-plenty?) We found it in a cookbook Costco gave us for Christmas. Totally random, I know.


1 lb crabmeat

1 large red delicious apple, cored and sliced

1 cup whole pecans

1 cup red seedless grapes

Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled, to taste [I do NOT like gorgonzola cheese, or any moldy cheese for that matter, so I normally replace it with feta or fresh mozzarella cheese]

½ cup mayo [the recipe calls for ¾ cup, but that was too much for this guy (thumbs pointing to me)]

⅔ cup light sour cream [again, the recipe calls for 1 cup, but I reduced that too]

Red leaf lettuce (we just used the artisanal lettuce mix from Costco)


1. Combine crabmeat, apple, pecans, grapes, and cheese in a bowl.

2. In a separate bowl, mix the mayo and sour cream together.

3. Add the mayo mix to the crab bowl and stir. Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

4. Serve on a bed of lettuce and enjoy!

Makes 6-8 servings if you have it as a side dish

Yum! Even my salt and pepper shakers look excited!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Who you callin’ a lyre?

My animal physiology (Biol 310) class studied osmoregulation in lyre crabs Hyas lyratus (last semester… I know I’m a little late talking about this). We (my husband and I) measured osmotic concentration in the hemolymph of lyre crabs at “100%” seawater (southeast Alaska experiences TONS of rain, so the water here is not really 100%) then put them in either ~60% and ~80% seawater for 48 hours. Then we (the class and I) measured the lyre crabs’ new osmotic concentrations and compared them to the environmental osmolarity.

Hyas lyratus, with a face only a mother could love
(aw, I love her too!)

our high-tech set-up:
60% seawater on the left, 80% seawater on the right

Any point that falls on the conformer line (the dashed y=x line) represents an animal that keeps their internal osmotic concentration the same as the external environment. A point above the line represents an animal that is regulating its osmolarity.

Just with our little experiment, at 100% and 80% seawater, the lyre crabs appeared to be osmoconformers. Once they were in 60% seawater they began to try to regulate their osmolarity with the hopes for survival. (One female did die in the 60% seawater treatment, but we didn’t have any other mortalities and all crabs were returned to 100% seawater in the wet lab after the experiment).

Lyre crabs just aren’t the regulators like other crabs, for example the green crab Carcinus maenas and Chinese mitten crab Ericheir sinensis. These guys are way better at regulating their internal osmotic pressures: C. maenas has a survival limit at about 33% seawater, and E. sinensis can even survive in fresh water, although they need to be in saltwater to reproduce. I guess that’s part of what makes them such great invasive species (and maybe why we’re NOT seeing lyre crabs all up in everyone’s business).
invasive crabs... what are you gonna do, eh?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Crab parasites

A while back my friends and I were talking about crab parasites. We got to this topic when clarifying that the crabs I study are Chionoecetes opilio and not Pthirus pubis, the type of “crabs” that parasitize mammals.

that's not something I would advertise

We wondered what type of parasites crustaceans may come across. One is the barnacle Briarosaccus callosus, which is found in king crabs.

These nasty little rhizocephalans hijack the hosts’ reproductive process by sterilizing them, using their energy to make thousands of cyprid larvae (how scientists know these blobs are in fact barnacles), and coercing them to protect the parasitic pirates.

a scarlet king crab Lithodes couesi
host with the most!
(the red blob is the parasite)

Paralomis hirtella with its own pink-ish rhizocephalan
reported here

They almost make "crabs" sound not that bad…

Read more:
Isaeva, V. V., S. M. Dolganov, and A. I. Shukalyuk. 2005. Rhizocephalan barnacles—Parasites of commercially important crabs and other decapods. Russian Journal of Marine Biology 31: 215-220.
DOI: 10.1007/s11179-005-0075-9

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Have I told you about Gilbert?

You all know about Legoless now, the second of only two crabs I ever named. The first was Gilbert.

Gilbert was a special guy. He survived a long, delayed, and stressful trip from Dutch Harbor to Juneau in 2008. This was before I was technically a student, and at the time I was still in Dutch Harbor (and then the Bering Sea) working as a groundfish observer for NMFS.

working hard?
participating in the 2008 Dutch Harbor 4th of July parade
(I took a detour)

Gilbert resided with several other male snow crabs in the UAS wet lab. He blended in with the crowd, known simply as "2213", and went with the flow until one day a fight broke out over food. It seemed, for some of the more amped-up males, herring was not going to cut it that week. So they turned their chelae on Gilbert. But Gilbert fought back valiantly! In the end, they were only able to tear off a portion of his carapace, exposing some gill filaments (he later dropped another leg, no doubt from residual stress or damage).

Gilbert enjoying some squid

a close-up view, with his gills
exposed in the red area

At first I started calling him Crunch (for the sound I imagined his carapace made at the time of his betrayal), but the gill waving about in the water and my love of Anne of Green Gables led me to pick the name Gilbert. I moved him to his own special spot, next to some ladies (but still isolated because you never know how the ladies might behave). He thrived there for a time despite his gill flapping about, but it wasn't meant to last. One day the wet lab experienced a phytoplankton bloom in all the tanks; brown clouds were everywhere. It was just too much for poor Gilbert to take; I found him the next day, peacefully sleeping for eternity.

Rest in peace, Gilbert.