Story at a glance

  • A chemical additive found in plastics polluting ocean waters might be exciting crabs.
  • ”Respiration rate increases significantly in response to low concentrations of oleamide, and hermit crabs show a behavioural attraction comparable to their response to a feeding stimulant,” doctoral candidate Paula Schirrmacher said.
  • The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into oceans each year.

A chemical additive found in plastics polluting ocean waters might be exciting crabs, researchers say. 

Researchers from the University of Hull in England studying crabs off the Yorkshire coast found that oleamide increases “the respiration rate of hermit crabs – indicating excitement and attraction.” The chemical is already considered to be a pheromone for other marine species. 

Doctoral candidate Paula Schirrmacher said in a news release that plastics containing oleamide might be mistaken by the crabs, “as scavengers,” as a potential food source.

 “Our study shows that oleamide attracts hermit crabs. Respiration rate increases significantly in response to low concentrations of oleamide, and hermit crabs show a behavioural attraction comparable to their response to a feeding stimulant,” Schirrmacher added. 

“This research demonstrates that additive leaching may play a significant role in the attraction of marine life to plastic,” she concluded. 

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The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into oceans each year and without action, there could be more plastic than fish in the waters by 2050. 

“Every single country is part of this plastics crisis. And every single one must be part of the solution: we need a united global response, with the world’s governments made accountable for ending marine plastics pollution,” WWF’s website says.


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Published on Aug 11, 2021