Crabs mistake trash for shells that have influenced the increasing number of deaths of hermit crabs. This is the reason according to scientists.
Study says, more than a half-million of hermit crabs were killed because of being trapped in the huge pile of plastic wastes. The huge pile of plastic waste around the beaches of pacific and Indian oceans is to blame for this horrific situation.
Researchers from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (Imas) at the University of Tasmania, the Natural History Museum in London and the Two Hands Project which is a community science organisation carried out the research. They found one or two dead crabs in every square meter due to the plastic wastes.
According to the researchers, “The very mechanism that evolved to ensure hermit crabs could replace their shells, has resulted in a lethal lure.”
According to the pioneering study, “Around 508,000 crabs died on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands archipelago in the Indian Ocean, along with 61,000 on Henderson Island in the South Pacific.”
The research team searched for plastic containers and other plastic wastes around the Henderson and Cocos island. In one instance, they found a staggering 526 dead hermit crabs in a single container.
The situation gets worse because the crabs look for newly available shells from the recently deceased crabs. They try to track them down and eventually gets trapped in the plastic debris.
Dr Alex Bond is a senior curator at the Natural History Museum. He is also one of the report’s researchers. He described the situation, “The problem is quite insidious really because it only takes one crab.”
He continued, “Hermit crabs do not have a shell of their own, which means that when one of their compatriots die, they emit a chemical signal that says there’s a shell available, attracting more crabs… essentially it is this gruesome chain reaction.” He further added, “In the ocean, it entangles and is ingested by wildlife; on land, it acts as a trap, as we’ve seen, but can also be a physical barrier to species moving along the ground.”
The lead researcher Dr. Jennifer Lavers from the institute for marine and Antarctic studies at the University of Tasmania in Australia said, “High concentrations of debris are now being encountered on beaches around the world, many of which are also home to hermit crabs that can be expected to interact with plastic pollution in the same way as those we studied.”
She continues, “These results are shocking but perhaps not surprising.” She further added, “It is inevitable that these creatures will interact with and be affected by plastic pollution.”
Dr Bond says about the solution, “The solution is twofold”. He says, “The first is reducing our reliance on plastic in general. We can do some of that through, for example, using reusable drinking bottles. Equally a lot of these bottles that are already out in the ocean are a result of leaks in waste management systems. Secondly, we need to find those leaks and prevent that escape from proper waste management getting into the ocean.”