Crabs, Shrimp And Other Crustacean Abundance Tied To Livelihood Of Coral Reefs

As coral reefs decline, so do decapod crustaceans

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A Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata) atop Acropora coral. Lighthouse, Ribbon Reefs, Great Barrier Reef. Via Richard Ling/Wikipedia
John Virata

If history is a guide, crustaceans such as crabs, shrimp, and lobster may not fare too well as coral reefs decline around the world. According to a press release put out by the University of Florida, the rise of decapod crustaceans are tied to the abundance of coral reefs and the decline of modern day coral reefs can be detrimental to the well-being of decapods.

Using museum specimens from around the world, researchers built a database of fossils from the Mesozoic era 252 to 60 million years ago that included 110 families, 378 genera, and 1,298 species of decapod crustaceans. They looked at the patterns of diversity and noted that increases in the number of decapod species correlated with the abundance of coral reefs. They noted a 300-fold increase in species diversity during this time compared to previous periods. This can be attributed to the role that reefs play as foraging and shelter regions for the crustaceans.

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Adiël Klompmaker, a postdoctoral researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida says as prehistoric reefs declined more than 150 million years ago, the number of decapod crustacean species declined by 80 percent. Klompmaker, lead author of the study says that if reefs continue to decline at the rate that they are declining, several thousand species of shrimps, crabs, lobsters, and other crustaceans will also decline. “They may adapt to a new environment without reefs, migrate to entirely new environments or, more likely, go extinct,” Klompmaker said.

The full study appears in the November issue of Geology. An abstract can be found here.

Article Categories:
Fish · Saltwater Fish