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Jennifer Kennedy

Crabs Feel Pain, Study Shows

By March 28, 2009

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Acadian Hermit Crab

Despite their armored appearance, crabs feel and remember pain, a study revealed. The study may lead to new thinking on how crabs and other crustaceans are handled in the food industry, and might make you rethink that seafood dinner.

Professor Bob Elwood and Mirjam Appel of Queen's University Belfast in Ireland conducted the study on hermit crabs, with the aim of investigating the reaction of crabs to an electrical stimulus.

Hermit crabs inhabit the empty shells of other organisms. Since the shell protects the crab's soft, vulnerable abdomen, the crab only leaves its shell when absolutely necessary, such as when it outgrows its old shell or is in danger. Elwood's study delivered small shocks to abdomens of some of the crabs, and this caused them to leave their shell. When the crabs were again subjected to a shock just under the threshold that caused them to move from their shells, they appeared to remember the experience, quickly leaving their shell to go to a new shell.

Earlier research by Elwood showed that shrimp are also capable of feeling pain, and he is calling for further investigation of the treatment of crustaceans in the seafood industry, which are often kept or reared in crowded conditions with no food. A concern for crustaceans isn't new to PETA, which has long encouraged patrons to liberate lobsters from restaurants and markets.

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Hermit Crab Photo: Blue Ocean Society

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