Supersized Crabs Caused By Pollution: Are Mutant Crabs Safe To Eat?

By Staff Reporter on April 9, 2013 5:10 PM EDT

blue crabs
Blue crabs (Photo: creative commons)

Supersized crabs? Researchers at the University of North Carolina's Aquarium Research Center report blue crabs are getting bigger and bigger!

An increase in carbon levels in our oceans are causing crabs, lobsters and shrimp to grow to bigger sizes. The carbon imbalance in the ecosystem, the same variable that allow crabs to grow, is also slow the metabolism of oysters, causing the shellfish to grow less quickly. What's more, oysters are a food source for crabs. The delicate change in the ecosystem is causing major headaches for marine biologists and researchers tasked with rebuilding the population in waters like Chesapeake Bay.

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"It's taking them longer to go from oyster spat to oyster adult," explained doctoral candidate at UNC Luke Dodd. "When you're a baby, there's tons of predators that want to eat you up."

The University of North Carolina's Aquarium Research Center found evidence that crabs in carbon-rich environments turn into "supersized monsters with insatiable appetites," according to UPI.com.

The mechanics behind the carbon levels is complex. Dodd explained that the acidification that make the crabs grow larger in high-carbon tanks can also cause crabs to function abnormally. Dodd indicated that crabs were starting to eat fewer oysters, perhaps adjusting over time.

"Acidification may be confusing the crab," Dodd explained. What's more, Dodd also noted "you can't discount evolution taking over."

So are these supersized monsters with insatiable appetites safe for our consumption? Yes. However, researchers argue that bigger crabs aren't necessarily better for eating. The increased growth rate cause the crabs to molt more often. The new crabs are placing more energy in growing newer, harder, shells rather than meatier flesh. Be sure your crab and lobster hammers are up to the challenge!

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