Thursday, June 27, 2013

Does this taste a little toxic to you?

You can't taste all contaminants in your food, so how do you know the crab you're eating is safe? The following question was asked during the last crab chat:

Is crab meat tested for contaminants before going to market?

The short answer: yes, somewhat. Alaskan seafood is generally free of contaminants (as is seafood from the rest of the country, according to "government tests") and the Alaska Seafood company follows FDA's Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) regulation program. Hooray for Alaskan crabs!

enjoying fresh contaminant-free Alaskan Dungeness crab

HOWEVER, when it comes to imported seafood, we can't be too sure how safe it is. We import a lot (which is surprising to me with all the 'merican seafood we have here), but only about 2% of it is tested by the FDA. Of that seafood tested, 8% of imports from China and 16% of imports from Taiwan were contaminated in 2010. Does that mean you shouldn't eat imported seafood? No. But I would choose wisely about what kind of fish, shrimp, or crab I buy with the help of Blue Ocean Institute's seafood guide.

screenshot of the Blue Ocean Institute online guide

All the focus shouldn't only be overseas. Like I said, domestic fisheries are pretty clean, but the FDA does routine inspections that sometimes result in processing plant clean-ups and food recalls. Those inspections include testing the meat but also looking at facility cleanliness, meat handling, and processing techniques.

inspecting some king crab legs!

So, the longer answer: yes, domestic crab meat and a small percentage of imported crab meat is tested before going to market.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Found you!

If you follow Snow Crab Love on facebook, you may remember that I started keeping track of the non-crab related keyword searches that bring people to my blog:

this was just the beginning - it's gotten even weirder, I promise!

I'll share the final results at the end of the year, but in the mean time I was curious what other websites thought of Snow Crab Love and the search phrases that draws its way. I saw The Bloggess check her stats using Alexa, so I figured I'd check it out too. Here are the results:


Totally weird, right? But when I google "the bullet crab", sure enough a link to this post comes up (currently it is the 7th link in the list).

a mantis shrimp's fist accelerates faster than a speeding bullet
(If you watch Arrested Development, you might get this photo reference)

The one that really confused me was "hat is fecundity". After pondering what it could mean and picturing things like this:

the hat had babies

I realized it was probably a commonly misspelled question of, "What is fecundity?" And what is it? Fecundity refers to how many babies something can produce (what their reproductive capacity is). For example, a female snow crab's fecundity can be measured in how many eggs she holds in her clutch (if you click on the link, check out slides 14 - 16). Or the fecundity of my hat (inspired by Princess Beatrice at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and worn during a midnight 5K race) could be measured by how many little hats spring forth from it's bow-y goodness.

(this was a few years ago, but a good hat [joke] never goes out of fashion)

So now you know. I wonder if this is going to change my search analytics...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Giving a whole new meaning to "shrimp"

Last week I shared some microscope photos of a megalopae hermit crab, which I was pretty excited about (there was high-fiving involved). But that reminded me of these little cuties that one of my bosses snapped:


They're shrimp embryos! I had the fun opportunity to dissect several shrimp from Prince William Sound and Mark Carls took advantage of the presence of gravid females to get some sweet shots. The picture above is of spot shrimp embryos, but we also saw coonstripe and pink shrimp.

coonstripe shrimp embryos

a closer view on those coonstripe babies

pink shrimp embryos still attached to their mother's pleopod

Their eyes are developed, but what I found especially neat was all of their little markings! (Remember seeing shrimp chromatophores from this post?) Once they grow up, each shrimp would have looked like this:

spot shrimp (Pandalus platyceros)
note the white spots on its first and fifth abdominal segments
(and try to ignore the white stripes on their carapace...)

coonstripe shrimp (Pandalus hypsinotis)
these guys have dark strips on their abdomen and
a bigger, arched carapace compared to the other shrimp 

pink shrimp (Pandalus borealis)
pink pink pink!

Those embryos were definitely the shrimpiest tiniest little shrimp I've ever seen!

"meep!" - spot shrimp embyros

Friday, June 14, 2013

Micro Awesomeness

Hey y'all! I've been working all week pulling stomach contents out of baby Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) and walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma). I know, I know. They're not crabs. They're not even crustaceans. BUT they eat crustaceans!

Boom! Euphausiid in the house!

It's not surprising to find one hundreds of these bad boys in a fish stomach. Euphausiids, or krill, are pretty ubiquitous and are the go-to prey item for a lot of animals, even the crabeater seal. The excitement in the lab this morning came from this guy:


He's obviously different from the krill we'd been seeing all week. What sparked fellow Southampton College and University of Alaska Fairbanks alum (holla!) Casey Debenham's curiosity was that large claw.

that's a legit chela

Right off the bat we could tell this was a crab!! But what kind of crab? On further inspection, with the help of Emily Fergusson, stomach content pro, we saw that the left claw was quite a bit smaller than the right. This was the tipping point!

Do you know what it is? I'll wait while you guess.
















It's a hermit crab!

can you see it?

It's a Pagurid in the megalopae stage! Pretty cool right? I guess he hadn't settled yet to find a protective shell and was just chilling up in the water column. Had he not been eaten, he might have grown to look like this:

although he'd probably be rockin' a gastropod shell

Oh well. Circle of life, amirite?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Kodiak Crab Festival 2013

I have yet to make it to the Crab Festival in Kodiak (next year? fingers crossed!) but this year my dear friend and fellow crab enthusiast, Miranda Westphal, was on the scene with her family to catch some crabby fun!

poster design by Adina Preston

While the Crab Festival celebrates crabs, it is also a celebration of Kodiak itself and life on an island. Miranda shared some festival moments dedicated to the people who make Kodiak home:

horses horses horses horses!
(any Sleepless in Seattle fans out there?)

Kodiak dancers

beat boys taking it up a notch

the marimba band (with back-up maraca players)

who's that there but our very own Laura Stichert,
snow crab biologist extraordinaire!!

But don't worry, crab lovers. There were also crabs:

so many jokes, so little time

I'll have to make sure I get there some day! Did you go? What was your favorite part? Leg? Tail? (Har-dee-har-har!) Thanks, Miranda!

(logo by Sean Lawler)