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

Upgrades at Alex Fraser Park in Quesnel going ahead with higher budget

The additional funding will come from the North Cariboo Recreation and Parks capital reserve

B.C. firefighters being deployed to Northern Alberta

The Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several days and thousands of people have been told to evacuate

Cariboo North MLA Oakes pushes for Clare’s Law legislation

The bill will allow at-risk individuals to access info on partner’s potentially abusive past

Quesnel RCMP looking for witnesses to a wheelchair turnover

They would like to speak with a Good Samaritan who helped out or some kids who may have witnessed

Quesnel Farmers’ Market is in full swing

The downtown market runs Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Killer of Calgary mother, daughter gets no parole for 50 years

A jury found Edward Downey guilty last year in the deaths of Sara Baillie, 34, and five-year-old Taliyah Marsman

Raptors beat Bucks 120-102 to even series at 2-2

Lowry pours in 25 as Toronto moves within two games of NBA Finals

Body of missing snowmobiler recovered from Great Slave Lake

Police confirm the body is that of one of three missing snowmobilers

Around $13.6 million of capital projects have been completed or committed in the 108 Mile Ranch area

A string of announcements was made at the 108 Mile Golf Resort for the near future of the community

Toddler seriously injured after falling from Okanagan balcony

RCMP are investigating after a two-year-old boy fell from the balcony of an apartment in Kelowna

Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada Highway widening in B.C.

Revelstoke-area stretch first awarded under new union deal

Is vegan food a human right? Ontario firefighter battling B.C. blaze argues it is

Adam Knauff says he had to go hungry some days because there was no vegan food

Winds helping in battle against fire threatening northern Alberta town

Nearly 5,000 people have cleared out of High Level and nearby First Nation

Most Read