In general, human activities can positively and negatively influence the environment in which organisms inhabit. Every organism on this earth plays an important role in maintaining the balance of life no matter the size. Scientists may research the study of life on a small scale in order for us to better understand how small organisms can influence the environment in big ways. If in a community a small factor is harmed there might be consequences for those who heavily depend on it.
Our marine biology class participated in the LiMPETS sandy beach monitoring program on September 20th, 2014 at Ocean Beach located in San Francisco. We took 50 cores from the beach and recorded how many sand crabs were found per core. We did this so we could analyze and compare the sand crab population in the 11 years that data were collected. This is necessary in order to have a complete picture of any changes in the population.
According to Beyonce, girls run the world, but from Bishop O’Dowd’s sandy beach monitoring data, it’s female sand crabs with eggs the run Ocean Beach. Sand crabs are important animals on California beaches because they can indicate the health of the area of the beach in which they live. Also, they are an important species in the food chain. They are the primary consumers on the beach and many other species rely on their existence.
Over the past ten years, the amount of female crabs with eggs has fluctuated greatly. The crabs had fruitful mating seasons in 2009 and 2011, as shown by the graph below. Following the pinnacle of pregnant crab abundance in 2009, Ocean Beach’s sand crab population boomed (see year 2010 in the graph). Most of these crabs were juveniles and possibly offspring of the pregnant females from the year before. This population boom may be due to climate change; recent studies have shown our planet faces challenges that may be devastating for the species that make their home, reproduce, and live in sandy beaches.
Everybody loves going to a nice sandy beach. We set out to learn more about the health of beaches by analyzing the abundance of mole crabs at beaches near cities and beaches in more remote areas.
Although they are no bigger than the size of your thumb and seemingly unimportant creatures, mole crabs are very significant animals on sandy beaches. Their numbers are also indicative of the general health of the entire beach because they are in the middle of the food chain. This means that they are affected by both a scarcity in their prey or predators.
So, how do mole crab populations vary from urban beaches to remote beaches?
We collected data about sand crabs from Ocean Beach. From the data, we came up with a question about the sand crabs, and supported it with the data we collected. We compared our findings to that of other scientific resources, like the “Pacific Mole Crab” article. We were able to see if sand crabs changed from the time the articles were made to now. When we looked at the findings, we could come up with possible causes. We gathered the information and began to put it into a blog. This process helped us become more confident in science and in writing. It’s amazing that our research is contributing to the scientific world.
The mating season of the Pacific sand crab occurs from February to October. The female sand crabs are able to produce up to 45,000 eggs and carry them on her abdomen. These eggs take about 30 days to develop and after they hatch, the newborn sand crabs drift in the ocean as planktonic larvae for approximately 4.5 months while they go through 8-11 larval stages. Once these small sand crabs return to the shore, they are considered “recruits”. Although recruitment can occur year-round depending on environmental conditions, most recruitment occurs in spring, early summer and again in the fall. Based on the information given in the article, there should have been an abundance of recruits during the September trip to Ocean Beach. However, there were more males and females than there were recruits. According to our school’s data from past trips, this pattern has been the same since 2003.