Friday, September 28, 2012

The Weather Crab

Have you seen this crab yet? My friend Sean sent me this video of a weather-predicting blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) that's apparently giving Punxsutawny Phil a run for his money. (Fun side-note: they filmed Groundhog Day in Woodstock, Illinois, not too far from where I grew up, so I got to go with my 2nd grade class and watch some of the movie magic in action!)

Movie. Magic.

Our weather crab, Baltimore Bill, predicted that this winter will be an early one (as opposed to having a warm fall).

Baltimore Bill makes his 2012 prediction

So, is Bill right? This year we're shifting from La Niña to El Niño. What does that mean? At the equator it means that weather will shift from unusually cool temperatures to unusually warm temperatures. What about for the east coast? An El Niño winter is a wet one, or one having a high amount of precipitation. If it's a "weak" year, that'll mean low temperatures and A LOT of snow. If it's a "strong" El Niño year, it'll be warm with a few winter storms. Hopefully, for these kiddos, it'll be a weak El Niño bringing lots of snow days, and not one as fearsome as Chris Farley!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Operation Landcrab

Family visits continue up here in Juneau, but I wanted to share something I learned with you really quickly. One of my parents' favorite things to do when in Juneau is to hit up the Alaska State Museum (it's interesting, plus always a great thing to count on with our rainy climate). This time around we saw an exhibit about the World War II battles fought in Alaska. That's right, Hawaii wasn't the only state to be attacked!

'When "Over There" Was Here'
(my mom checking out the uniforms)

The Aleutian Island chain was perfect for Japan's military strategy since it bridged the Pacific between there and North America. Unalaska (aka Dutch Harbor) was bombed and the islands of Kiska and Attu were at one time occupied by Japanese troops. The battle to regain Attu had one of the highest percentage of losses in WWII history! It's name: Operation Landcrab. ("Oooooh", you're all thinking, "that's why she's sharing this.")

Americans unloading gear in Massacre Bay

In May 1943, 15,000 Americans went up against 2,500 Japanese soldiers (I've also read it was 17,000 Americans versus 2,380 Japanese men, so I think these are just rough estimates). You can read about the details here (it's really interesting, and an amazing piece of Alaskan history)! All told, only 29 Japanese fighters survived while 1,500 Americans were wounded and 550 soldiers were killed in battle. What added to the devastation of war was the challenging climate that comes with an Aleutian battle site: 1,200 Americans died simply from Attu's climate.

hauling supplies through the snow on Attu

Japan installed a peace monument on Engineer Hill in 1987. It's made of titanium in the hopes that it can withstand Attu's extreme weather.

remembering Operation Landcrab

Friday, September 21, 2012

Did I mention I like to dance?

It's been a fun-filled family week for Snow Crab Love here in Juneau (hence the slow-down on posts) but I'm back today to share this video right on time for the weekend! It's sort of a follow-up video from Christopher Paparo on his photobombing lady crab: a male lady crab (Ovalipes ocellatus) showing off his moves!

Quite the twinkle toes, am I right? He could be the next Psy (minus the horses)!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Camera hog

Who knew lady crabs could be such camera hogs? Here's one photobombing like your drunk friend a pro while Fish Guy Christopher Paparo (a Long Islander with mad photography skillz) was video taping his favorite porgy spot:

I hope this inspires some fun Friday night shenanigans for you all. (And how's my photobombing ability you ask? Pretty good, I'd say. Pretty good.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Crabs on the move

The hermit crabs are invading!
The hermit crabs are invading!

OK, well maybe they're just migrating. This video of Caribbean hermit crabs, or soldier crabs, (Coenobita clypeatus) was taken at Nanny Point on St. John Island (U.S. Virgin Islands). Not too much is written about this amazing migration, but these gals are all headed towards the beach to release their babies. We've seen this before with the red crab migration on Christmas Island, although I find this movement pretty impressive when considering the added weight of the hermit crabs' protective shells. They can move between 170 to 300 meters per day!


Have you witnessed this migration in person? If not, a trip to St. John Island next August doesn't sound too bad. Just make sure to take plenty of pictures and send them my way!

Friday, September 7, 2012


I wake up almost everyday and sing, "Hal - imeda!" Is it because I love calcareous green algae?

I first learned about this while diving in Fiji.
(It's a tough life, I know.)

Partly, yes. It's my way of saying good morning to my beloved goldfish, Halimeda, named after the aforementioned algae. I got her back in 2010 when I was TA-ing Biology 310. Goldfish tails are perfectly translucent enough to study blood movement through their veins under different conditions. Every student got to take their fish home if they wished, but luckily for me there was one extra! Not only is she a dear member of our family, she's also the inspiration for this Crabday's crab:

Halimeda Crab
Huenia heraldica

Eee! It's so tiny and so green!

These little crabs are kind of like the decorator crabs we've seen before (here) in that they like to decorate their bodies with bits of the algal halimeda. And, I mean, why wouldn't they, when they look so good!

"I'm going for a 'Dumbo' type look." - halimeda crab

These arrowhead crabs live around the Indo-Pacific, but from the looks of things, probably stay in areas with little-to-no currents:

See how he moves in the water? It's like having a big ol' umbrella attached to your face! Which might look cool... if you're a crab...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Crab Chat

I had another fun opportunity to chat with fans of Deadliest Catch last week. Boy, did we cover A LOT in 2 hours! Aside from funny snow crab mating behaviors, temperature dependent reproductive cycles, and just how many babies a snow crab female can make, here's a break-down of some topics we talked about:

Do we have to worry about mercury in crabs like we do mercury in fish?

We worry about mercury in tuna, swordfish, and even salmon because they're large fish that eat other fish and bioaccumulate methylmercury. In the case of tuna and swordfish, their long lives only help to increase this accumulation. Since crabs aren't really eating much fish (they prefer clams, mussels, and worms), we don't need to worry about mercury building up in their little bodies. The US limit for mercury is 1.0 parts per million, but crabs rarely are measured over 0.4 ppm with average king crab levels at 0.09 ppm and average Tanners (potentially including both Chionoecetes bairdi and C. opilio) at 0.15 ppm (see Table 3 here). American lobsters (Homarus americanus) seem to be the only crustacean with the ability to accumulate a higher level of mercury above the US limit, but their average is still maintained around 0.31 ppm. Overall, the answer is "No", we don't have to worry too much about mercury in crabs.

Why aren't blue king crabs fished as much as red king crabs?

It's not that blue king crab are hard to get to or just in the northernmost Bering Sea and Russia, making them difficult to fish due to sea ice coverage; blue kings have a wide distribution like red king crabs. The reason they're not fished is because they're so rare and few in numbers. You can see the density of blues from the National Marine Fisheris Service summer 2011 survey in the draft report here (go to page 53).

blue's range in yellow: you can see them in Southeast Alaska,
by the Pribs and St. Matt's, and near Norton Sound

What's Sig Hansen's crab dip recipe?

Oh man, we were talking A LOT about food! I love cooking and trying different recipes, whether they use crab or otherwise. Someone mentioned that Captain Sig has a crab dip recipe that he likes to make, and I for the life of me can't find it in the interwebs. The closest I got were these two clues:

A. "I like to just make a crab dip, just a regular spread. I bake it with cheese and bread crumbs on top. We like to watch a movie and have some crab dip." - Sig Hansen, from an interview by Hannah Sentenac

B. He apparently told a Swedish journalist (at CatchCon?) that he likes 'a hot crab dip with artichoke and a layer of cheese melted on top' - from a CatchCon recap by April MacIntyre

OK, I like the sound of the second one: gotta love bonus artichokes. I found a couple recipes, one super simple and one that reminded me of a halibut recipe I learned when I lived in Unalaska, so I'm going with the second one (found here, but modified a little):

Hot Crab and Artichoke Dip

1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts
1 cup lump crabmeat
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
bread crumbs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Drain the artichokes, then chop them.
3. Mix with the other ingredients, transfer to an ovenproof dish.
4. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden and bubbly.

If you know the real recipe let me know, but I'm super excited to try this one out!

Are you a Star Trek fan?

One funny thing to come out of Thursday's chat was the realization that most of us were also Star Trek fans! Is there some connection between crab fishing and deep space exploration??

"My tea (Earl Grey, hot) is so much better in this
Snow Crab Love mug!" - Capt. Picard

Thank you again, F/V Seabrooke fans and Deadliest Catch fans! I had a great chat with you and look forward to any future opportunities to talk shop crab with you!