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Crabs Help Solve Mystery

Crabs Help Solve Mystery

January 1, 2019

Fiddler crabs answered a question marine chemists and ecologists have long pondered: Does oil still have impacts on wildlife decades after it was spilled in a salt marsh? Researchers led by WHOI chemist Chris Reddy showed that in the areas where oil persisted more than 30 years after a 1969 oil spill in Falmouth, Massachusetts, there were fewer crabs, and they moved more slowly—as if intoxicated from residual oil exposure. When the crabs ran into lingering oil patches, they stopped digging downward, creating shallower burrows that made them more vulnerable to predators and diminishing tilling needed to maintain healthy marshes. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)