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Thinking About the Immortality of the Crab

Gloria Ukaoma

Posted on March 27, 2021 23:24

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Crabs are the centerpiece of a new string of Internet memes. Despite their absurdity, these memes are based on the common biology of decapods.

Popular culture has recently taken up a fascination with crustaceans. Their tough shells, menacing claws, and beady eyes render them perfect for the creation of memes. I personally have developed a fondness for the ten-legged sea dwellers. However, there's a lot that the general public doesn't know about these animals.

For one, crabs aren't immortal; their lobster cousins are. And even lobster immortality is a superficial one. In theory, if no predators attacked the lobster, it would live on indefinitely and continue growing. This is because lobsters have special proteins that constantly repair DNA throughout their lives, so they can evade the drudgery of aging. However, due to a lobster’s molting process, the specimen would eventually grow too big to be able to shed its shell. From there, the lobster would have a slow death stuck inside its self-made prison. It's kind of morbid if you think about it.

The life-cycle of a crab is fairly similar. Take a blue crab for example: they go from egg to larvae to juvenile, then begin their molting cycle as fully-fledged crabs. Female crabs eventually stop molting after mating, but males continue to molt throughout their whole lives. That fact reminds me of season 4, episode 1b of Spongebob Squarepants where Mr. Krabs had to be "soft-shelled" for a while. This is a surprisingly accurate depiction of how decapods like lobsters and crabs molt.

When beginning the molting process, the exoskeleton softens, and the organism must extract itself from the old shell. This is an exhausting process; crabs can also get stuck and die during this period. After the shell is discarded, the crab is soft and unprotected until its new shell matures. Crabs usually seek shelter until their shells harden. Needless to say, Mr. Krabs was feeling the need to hide without his shell to protect him.

As crustaceans get their fifteen minutes of fame on the Internet, it's nice to see people discussing the biology behind these magnificent creatures. Maybe it's my predilection for random trivia, but I think crabs are some of the coolest animals out there. What other animal has a whole subset of evolutionary research tied to their existence? It seems like even nature can't get enough of the crab-like form! As I said earlier, this is perfect fuel for meme creators.

Gloria Ukaoma

Posted on March 27, 2021 23:24

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Source: Phys.org

Crabs are living the meme life on social media lately. The memes joke that everything will eventually look like a crab. But...

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