Celebrity Wax Sculptures for Snails

got-crabs_thumbSnails taste good. Well snails taste good to crabs. In fact almost every facet of certain snail’s lives is completely dictated by crabs. Crabs regulate populations of snails. Even the most characteristic part of snail, its shell, represents an evolutionary arms race between prey and predator. Yet, we do not know how many crabs and how often they actually prey on their snail victims.   Fieldwork determining predation on snails is marine invertebrate version CSI, with marine biologists gathered around the shells of dead trying to piece together a murder or assault. But snails shells just break under the forceful claws of crabs and fragments provide little real evidence for the crab criminal case.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 2.16.12 PMCarrie Tyler and colleagues present a new method that changes the game—wax sculptures. At two different sites these scientists put out snail wax replicas and documented 145 attacks. The wax impression of the attacks was so well defined attacks using the claws versus the legs could be distinguished. Claw attacks were very deep and wide with corresponding marks on both sides of the shell because of the claw closing. Walking legs produced groves that were shallow and thinner and came about from crabs trying to dislodge the replicas.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 2.20.25 PMI feel like there is joke here somewhere with wax on and wax off.

Tyler, C., Stafford, E., & Leighton, L. (2014). The utility of wax replicas as a measure of crab attack frequency in the rocky intertidal Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 95 (02), 361-369 DOI: 10.1017/S0025315414001210

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.