Tanner crabs (Chionoecetes tanneri) captured in June 2016 at 1,250 metres below the surface at Barkley Canyon. (Photo courtesy UVic’s Ocean Networks Canada)

WATCH: Methane-snacking crabs adaptive to climate change, UVic researchers say

A joint research study shows that B.C. crabs are making the most of methane seeps

Tanner crabs living on the seafloor of the northeast Pacific Ocean may be adaptive to climate change, according to a recent study by the University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada and the Oregon State University.

The crabs were originally thought to exclusively eat phytoplankton until researchers observed them snacking on methane-filled bacteria about 1.2 km deep in B.C.’s oceans.

“Evidence shows the crabs’ diet is diverse and includes bacteria that processes methane,” said Fabio De Leo, co-author of the study and senior scientist at the University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada, in an emailed statement.

ALSO READ: Viral video shows Sooke resident calling out illegal crab fishers

“This suggests that their populations may be able to adapt if their common food source becomes scarce. By studying and collecting these specimens, we can learn how a variety of sea-dwelling species are adapting to ongoing changes linked to climate change.”

The crabs were observed near methane seeps, also known as cold seeps, which are continental-margin areas where methane comes up from the ocean floor.

Researchers observed the unusual sight of a Tanner crab flipping up on its chest – near the seep due to methane build –so they collected specimens and found biochemical markers in the crabs’ muscles, stomachs and tissues.

Researchers also observed the crabs migrating, suggesting that Tanner crabs could be forwarding methane-based food energy to other seafloor-dwelling species.

ALSO READ: Invasive crab spotted near Sooke

“The thinking used to be that the marine food web relied almost solely on phytoplankton dropping down through the water column and fertilizing the depths,” says Andrew Thurber, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University and co-author on the study. “Now we know that this viewpoint isn’t complete and there may be many more facets to it.”

The study began in 2012 and findings were recently published in the Frontiers in Marine Science magazine.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

UVic

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Royal Montreal Golf Club to host Presidents Cup

An impressive contingent of Canadian Players should be on home turf for the 2024 Presidents Cup

All Mercer Celgar workers in Castlegar return to work

At least 215 of the workers were laid off during a temporary mill shutdown in July

Arctic vessel named after Trail-born war hero

PHOTOS: Scroll to bottom of story to see more photos of Lt. Robert Hampton Gray

Trail’s Champions Hockey School happy to get kids back on the ice

Popular Champions Hockey School goes ahead with pandemic protocols in place

Trail Blazers: From row boats to ferries to bridges

Trail Blazers is a weekly feature in partnership with the Trail Museum and Archives

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

Conservation seizes fawn illegally kept captive in Vancouver Island home

A Comox Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

University of B.C. study gauges willingness for parents to vaccinate children for influenza

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

Have you seen Berleen? B.C. pig destined for sanctuary goes missing

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Most Read