Supersized crabs: Bad news for seafood lovers?

Supersized crabs, caused by increasing carbon dioxide levels in the air and oceans, are gobbling up oyster beds and growing giant, lean bodies with little crab meat.

The giant crabs are coming. And they're hungry.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina's (UNC) Aquarium Research Center have found that higher atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas that's linked to global warming — are also causing crabs to grow to bigger, faster and stronger, according to the Washington Post.

As the oceans absorb significant amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the water becomes more acidic and carbon-rich, and these higher levels of carbon are giving rise to the supersized crabs.

That's bad news for oyster lovers: The shellfish are a favorite food of crabs, and big, ravenous crabs can wipe out an oyster bed in record time.

"Higher levels of carbon in the ocean are causing oysters to grow slower, and their predators — such as blue crabs — to grow faster," Justin Baker Ries, a marine geologist at UNC, told the Post.

Moreover, the fast-growing crabs have less meat in them, making this doubly bad news for fans of seafood.

It's been known for some time that as the oceans become more acidic, the shells of sea creatures — from microscopic plankton to oysters and scallops — are becoming thinner.

Nowhere is this change in ocean water chemistry more dramatic than in the coastal zones of the northeastern United States. In a 2009 study published in the journal Geology, the UNC researchers found that Chesapeake blue crabs grew nearly four times faster in tanks containing water with high levels of carbon than in low-carbon tanks.

Fast-growing crabs also have insatiable appetites. In a 2011 experiment, UNC researchers placed mud crabs and oysters in a high-carbon tank environment.

The result was "like watching lions tear apart lambs," the Post reports, as the aggressive crabs ripped open oyster shells and gobbled up their insides.

Follow Marc Lallanilla on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Supersized crabs: Bad news for seafood lovers?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today