Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hybrid crabs

You may remember me mentioning snow crabs (Chionoecetes opilio) and their congener Tanner crabs (C. bairdi) are makin' babies in the eastern Bering Sea, resulting in hybrid crabs!

hybrid: "I'm a monster!!"

Well, it's getting worse. Or more prevalent? Or just more closely looked for and then accurately identified. Something like that. Anyway, when I was at the Interagency Crab Meeting this year, Dan Urban from NMFS Kodiak updated us on the Chionoecetes hybrid situation:

Chionoecetes hybrids (#/square nautical mile) encountered
during the 2011 NMFS summer trawl survey (draft report here)

And just as I had suspected, Dan said the participants are bairdi males and opie females. Which leads me to this horrifying conclusion: the Tanners are trying to take down the snow crabs! Think about it: it's just like the English vs. the Scots:

"If we can't get them out, we'll breed them out."

It's hard to stomach, I know. And that makes our opie men kinda like these guys:

totally historically accurate.

Maybe some of you out there are romantics and are thinking, "No wait. Maybe the opies and bairdis are actually in love, even though it's forbidden!" Yeah, OK. Like maybe the opie females are from the Capulets and the bairdi males are from the Montagues and it's all very enchanting?

"My only love sprung from my only hate!" - Juliet opie female


That would be sweet, except the crabs in the eastern Bering Sea don't have a major failure in communication that leads to their untimely demise (aka heartbroken suicide). They reproduce! They make hybrid babies! And those hybrids reproduce too, albeit at lower rates (the females tend to have less clutch-fullness). So no. I'm sticking with the Braveheart analogy.

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