Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Snickers, Tato Skins, and Crabs

You've probably already seen this, but just in case you missed it:

Yes, that’s a vending machine, selling live crabs.


Live crabs!?! Because nothing says snack-on-the-go like a slightly hypothermic crustacean. Oh, and don’t forget the crab vinegar, sold conveniently on the bottom row!

cold and cramped crab

So who are these unlucky little crabs, forced into tiny “edible plastic” boxes and sold in a Nanjing (China) subway vending machine? No one really used scientific names in their articles/blogs (my nerdiness was quite offended by this), but they were commonly referred to as either “hairy crabs” or “dazhaxie”. As far as I can tell, that makes them Eriocheir sinensis, also known as the Shanghai hairy crab or the Chinese mitten crab.

Chinese mitten crab

If you’re a blue crab fisherman out of Maryland, you may have instinctively screamed and ran away from your computer. Why? The Chinese mitten crab is being quite the pesky invasive species up in American waters. It thrives in estuarine environments, making the hairy crab a great candidate for aquaculture cultivation.

However, the hairy crab is having trouble in China, potentially being affected by overfishing in the Yangtze River. (Does anyone know their management plan? Let me know!)

N = Nanjing, S = Shanghai, and the (seemingly) beautiful waterway is the Yangtze River

Really? Overfishing? No, not a crab that’s so plentiful it’s being packaged and sold live in a vending machine. And if you get a dead one, the vendor will give you three free crabs. The hairy crab is also favored for the female roe, which means that this potentially-overharvested animal is targeted specifically for their future stock (the crab embryos). Yikes.

the tastey tradition of Da Zha Xie

You know, I’ll just stick with the Tato Skins. Thanks.

Hairy crab leisurely reading material:

Anger, K. 1991. Effects of temperature and salinity on the larval development of the Chinese mitten crab Ericheir sinensis (Decapoda: Grapsidae). Marine Ecology Progress Series 72: 103-110.

Lee, T.-H., and F. Yamazaki. 1989. Cytological observations on fertilization in the Chinese fresh-water crab, Eriocheir sinensis, by artificial insemination (in vitro) and incubation. Aquaculture 76: 347-360.

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