Round Up: Benthic Ecology Meeting Day 2

Day 2 commenced with a bang; two talks on reproductive strategies in the first session! Plus both talks were on crustaceans so I was thoroughly pleased. There were plenty of other talks throughout the day to keep me satisfied, so let’s get to it!

Male or female? That is the question! Snapping shrimp are known for being the eusocial species of the sea. Eusociality is a term describing species with a structured society (e.g. queens, workers) like bees or ants. Not all species of snapping shrimp are eusocial, yet all species do appear to have intersex individuals (individuals with male and female body parts). This finding is so recent that no-one knows why intersex individuals are favoured over separate sexes! So keep up with Bittnee Barris’ work to see if the mystery is solved.

Hannibal – Marine edition: I’m sure many of you have eaten lobster before, but have you ever though about what a lobster eats? Video footage recorded by Noah Oppenheim has captured adult lobsters red-handed … eating juvenile lobsters. Interestingly, this behaviour only occurred at nighttime – apparently they are only comfortable eating their own under the cover of darkness. However, I’m a little sceptical as to how often this actually happens in the wild. In Oppenheim’s study, the juvenile lobsters were tied down. If they could exhibit normal behaviour it seems unlikely that they would stay in open environments.

Tiny males, long penises & large hermaphrodites: You may have heard that barnacles have the longest penis to body ratio in the animal kingdom. What you may not know, is that some species are androdioecious. This means that the population is made up of tiny males and large hermaphrodites. According to Christine Ewers, the amount of males in the population may be related to food availability. It seems more manipulative studies are needed to substantiate this, but it’s an interesting system!

Quick research results:

  • Small, natural changes in pH and temperature can increase the numbers of twins, triplets and even quadruplets in sand dollar offspring.
  • Blue crabs move further upstream in droughts.
  • A new study in Belize will follow the effect of a Marine Protected Area on corals, fish and invertebrates.
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