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

Coastal GasLink receives first delivery of pipe sections

Company expects to begin welding and pipe laying in 2020

Local first responders talk stress, debriefing

‘Like anyone dealing with trauma, we are just like them’

Snowfall warning in effect for Williams Lake, 100 Mile House, Chilcotin

Ten to 15 cm of snow is expected to fall beginning Thursday

EDITORIAL: Stay safe driving in the snow

The weekly editorial for the 100 Mile Free Press

Fashion Fridays: Ethical and sustainable gifts for the season

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

B.C. boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

Residents in B.C. city could face 133% tax hike in ‘worst case’ lawsuit outcome: report

An average home could see a tax increase of $2,164 in one year

B.C. Transit finds 28 used fareboxes online, saves $300,000

‘Someone joked maybe we can buy used fareboxes on eBay,’ CEO says

Many of Canada’s working poor can’t afford lawyers, don’t qualify for legal aid

One lawyer says many people earn too much to qualify for legal aid, but not enough to really live on

Economy lost 71,200 jobs in November, unemployment rate climbs to 5.9%

Jobless rate is at its highest since August 2018, when it hit 6%

VIDEO: John Lennon’s iconic Rolls Royce rolls into Vancouver Island college for checkup

Royal BC Museum, Camosun College and Coachwerks Restorations come together to care for car

VIDEO: Rockslide closes part of Highway 93 in Fairmont Hot Springs

Geotechnical team called in to do an assessment after rocks fell from hoodoos

Petition calls for appeal of ex-Burns Lake mayor’s sentence for sex assault

Prosecution service says Luke Strimbold’s case is under review

Most Read