Researchers Discover Commercially-Fished Tanner Crabs Use Deep Sea Methane Seeps As Food Source·
Researchers have documented a group of tanner crabs vigorously feeding at a methane seep on the seafloor off British Columbia—one of the first times a commercially harvested species has been seen using this energy source.
There are many implications, researchers say, and surprisingly most of them are good. Human consumption of tanner crabs—one of three species sold as snow crabs—that feed on methane-eating bacteria and archaea should not pose a health concern because methane seeps are not toxic environments.
The discovery actually may mean that methane seeps could provide some seafloor-dwelling species an important hedge against climate change—because nearly all models predict less food will be falling into the deep sea in coming years.
Results of the study were just published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.
“The thinking used to be that the marine food web relied almost solely on phytoplankton dropping down through the water column and fertilizing the depths,” said Andrew Thurber, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University and co-author on the study. “Now we know that this viewpoint isn’t complete and there may be many more facets to it.
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