September 30, 2021
A Super Sea Creature
- as seen by -Brian Carrera
Loving the diversity of our oceans and in need of a seaside destination, I visited the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium.
In the aquarium’s Spineless exhibit, I found the world’s largest arthropod, the Japanese spider crab (Macrocheira kaempferi). It is an aquatic scavenger that uses its appendages to scan the seabed for decaying matter while defending itself from small predators.
For safety, younger crabs camouflage themselves by attaching sponges and algae to their back. Seventy-five percent of spider crab species exhibit this behavior. The term “decorator crabs” is used to describe this method of disguise. Japanese spider crabs do not usually perform this past adolescence as their size deters most predators.
Although not endangered, these crabs are considered a delicacy in Japan which leaves populations vulnerable. Accordingly, Japan has banned their harvesting during their spring mating season to defend against over-consumption.
The Japanese spider crab exemplifies the importance of conservation laws and sustainable seafood consumption to protect balanced aquatic ecosystems.
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