US News: Shore crabs have the extraordinary ability to survive thanks to a good memory and willingness to learn - - PressFrom - United Kingdom
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US News Shore crabs have the extraordinary ability to survive thanks to a good memory and willingness to learn

08:30  23 october  2019
08:30  23 october  2019 Source:   inews.co.uk

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Scientists have identified some of the key skills behind the humble shore crab’s extraordinary ability to survive: a good memory and a willingness to learn.

While a tough body and set of claws does not do any harm when it comes to seeing off opponents there is much more too this creature’s ecological success than its physique.

A study of the European shore crab, a common species in the British Isles, monitored their ability to find food - in the form of a mussel - in a maze and how that changed over time. It showed a steady improvement in both the speed at which the food was located at the end of the maze and the number of wrong turns taken while doing so.

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The crabs also clearly remembered the maze as, when they were placed in it two weeks later but without any food, they all returned to the end of the maze much faster than they did on their very first attempt.

Good at finding shelter

Although the study only looked at the crabs ability to find food, the researcher said the findings suggested the same skill would help them home in on a good shelter.

“The European shore crab is a very successful, very competitive animal. Their level of learning in this study was impressive and helps to explain how they are so efficient - locating, finding and returning to feed sources and shelter,” said Edward Pope, of Swansea University.

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“The ability to find a food supply and to keep returning it is incredibly useful. It’s one of those things you’d expect in an animal but also it’s quite sophisticated behaviour,” Dr Pope added.

Crabs are 'not simple creatures'

"People tend to think of crabs as being very simple automatons, just following simple processes. But this shows they have the ability to learn and change their behaviour according to what their environment gives them,” he said.

The ability of crabs to survive is so great that apart from being widespread in native habitats such as UK coastal waters, they have even established themselves in “places where they are not supposed to be,” such as North and South America and Australia, Dr Pope said.

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The findings are published in the journal Biology Letters.

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That's good - it helps to focus your thoughts so that when you are doing that section in class, you know that it is important and you'll know what you don't know. Don't lose the ability to laugh at yourself and your own mistakes. Mistakes are not the end of the world - they are the beginning of real learning !

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Crabs help environment

The European shore crab plays a key role in regulating its environment.

It does this in its role both as a predator by controlling populations of sea snails, mussels and other prey and by tucking into dead matter such as seabirds, thereby recycling their nutrients back into the ecosystem.

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Given their importance in their native habitats, remarkably little research has been conducted into how the crabs survive so well.

The latest study suggests that much of its success comes down to its ability to remember the location of food and, by extension, good shelter to help protect it from predators. The hope is that an increased understanding of how the crab operates could help to protect them even better, with benefits for the broader environment they regulate.

MSN UK is committed to Empowering the Planet and taking urgent action to protect our environment. We’re supporting Friends of the Earth to help solve the climate crisis, please give generously here or find out more about our campaign here.

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This is interesting!