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  

Just Posted

Qualicum Beach cinema advocates want to hear from you

Group inspired by local, international examples of community projects

Suspect arrested following gunpoint robbery in Qualicum Beach

Stop and Shop Grocery was robbed June 5; man now in custody

Parksville Qualicum Beach region moves to elevated Stage 3 watering restrictions

City, regional district ask residents to conserve water

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

Port Alberni man dies in ATV accident

A Port Alberni man has died following an all-terrain vehicle accident near… Continue reading

B.C. woman fighting to block coroner’s report detailing husband’s death

Fears revealing exactly how Ben Kilmer took his life will have traumatic effect on her two children

Monkey spotted on late-night jaunt in Campbell River

Conservation officers also apparently looking for cougar in the area

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Three Albertans land ‘monster’ sturgeon in B.C.’s Fraser River

For angler who landed the exceptionally large sturgeon it was an ‘incredible dream come true’

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

Most Read