Every week, it seems, we get new and increasingly terrifying information on how quickly the consequences of humanity’s environmental destruction are going to catch up with us and leave us irrevocably fucked. While there’s no silver lining to this sort of news other than the faintest hope that it will finally, maybe, at long last spur an appropriate response, we can at least enjoy our ride to annihilation knowing that one of our planet’s doomed species is really, really enjoying certain aspects of the apocalypse.
Yesterday, The Washington Post published an article whose headline reads: “Hermit crabs ‘sexually excited’ by plastic pollution in ocean, researchers say.” Because it’s impossible to see this and not immediately want to learn more, we continued onward to find that “a chemical that is leaked from plastic dumped in the ocean is probably arousing hermit crabs.”
Researchers from England’s University Of Hull studied 40 crabs living off the coast of Yorkshire “and found signs that the crustaceans may be ‘sexually excited’ by oleamide—an additive released by plastics found under the sea.” In order to paint this picture a bit better, we’re given the mental image of heavy-breathing, frighteningly horned-up crabs. Apparently, exposure to oleamide “elevates the respiration rate of hermit crabs, which indicates excitement…” of a kind distinct from their reaction to food sources.
The article tells us some insects go wild for oleamide, too, because it registers as “a sex pheromone.” So, that’s nice. What isn’t so good, though, is that the “more than 8 million metric tons of plastic” annually discarded in the world’s oceans means that, by 2050, the planet’s waters could contain “more plastic than fish.”
Hopefully we can reach a compromise with the crabs that allows us to save the oceans while still allowing them the panting excitement of happening upon a decomposing Ziploc bag. We figure out how to stop dumping our trash in the ocean, say, but also arrange weekly shipments of biodegradable blow-up crab dolls filled with the hot, sexy oleamide they crave.
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