CO2 Levels Are Super-Sizing Crabs

Crustaceans bulk up as carbon levels rise

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 8, 2013 3:27 AM CDT | Updated Apr 8, 2013 4:03 AM CDT

(Newser) – Carbon emissions usually make news for their effect on the climate, but they're also having a major impact on marine ecosystems in the form of creating huge crustaceans, the Washington Post finds. In the Chesapeake Bay area and many others, oyster and scallop populations are dropping as crabs—who are able to grow their shells much faster in high-carbon conditions—become bigger and more numerous.

"Higher levels of carbon in the ocean are causing oysters to grow slower, and their predators—such as blue crabs—to grow faster," a marine geologist explains. Lobsters and shrimp are also getting bigger as carbon levels rise, while coral is being killed off. The shift is bad news for places like the Chesapeake Bay, where oysters play a vital role in cleaning polluted waters, and may not even be such good news for crab lovers: Crabs that bulk up on carbon don't put the same energy into growing flesh so they aren't any meatier.

Blue crabs sit in a box after being harvested in the waters around Delacroix, La.
Blue crabs sit in a box after being harvested in the waters around Delacroix, La.   (AP Photo/Vicki Smith)
A seafood dealer holds a blue crab at a market near New Orleans.
A seafood dealer holds a blue crab at a market near New Orleans.   (AP Photo/John Flesher)
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