Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Hermit Crabs are Wearing Our Plastic Waste as Shells

Hermit crabs, which normally scavenge shells to protect their bodies, are now wearing our plastic waste.

Scientists concluded after analyzing photos taken by wildlife enthusiasts. Many said they were ‘heartbroken’ to see how our plastic waste is impacting wildlife.

plastic waste
There are at least 170 trillion pieces of plastic waste across the oceans

From the photos, approximately two-thirds of hermit crabs were wearing plastic waste as ‘artificial shells’.

The study, which was published in the Science of the Total Environmental journal, looked at photo-sharing websites and social media. According to urban ecologist Marta Sculkin, it was then that they started to notice ‘something was out of the ordinary’

She and her colleagues, Lukasz Dylewski and Zuzanna Jagiello, discovered that 386 individual hermit crabs were wearing plastic caps as artificial shells.

It’s currently unknown whether or not the plastic shells are harmful to the small crustaceans. Nevertheless, it’s ‘heartbreaking’ for many to see that wildlife is making use of what’s available in the environment as homes – our trash.

hermit crab
Two-thirds of the hermit crabs that were pictured in the study wore plastic ‘caps’ as artificial shells

This ‘global phenomenon’ raises questions about how the tiny crabs interact with and use plastic and whether or not it will cause the animals any harm. Researchers are also questioning whether or not it will affect the species’ evolution.

Professor Szulkin also said they don’t know whether or not the hermit crabs will fight over the artificial shells, as they normally would with normal shells.

They do believe, however, that it’s becoming easier for the animals to find artificial alternatives as natural snail shells, which they normally wear, are becoming harder and harder to find. Some believe the plastic ‘shells’ may also help some smaller crustaceans as they are lighter and easier to carry than snail shells.

hermit crab 2
Hermit crabs normally wear snail shells, which they scavenge from their environment

According to one recent study, there are more than 170 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the oceans. Experts have warned that the number could easily triple by 2040 if no action is taken.

Mark Miodownik, a professor at University College London, recommends individuals to reuse plastics, instead of discarding them after one use, to end the scourge of plastic.

Brooke Carter
Brooke Carter
Freelance writer who loves dogs and anything related to Japanese culture.
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