8272 Moss Landing Road
Moss Landing, CA 95039
Undergraduate Education: B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of California, Irvine in 2010
Research Interests: For my thesis, I'm trying to understand the evolution of the behavior of decoration in the local Majid crabs. These crabs have bulbous carapaces and long legs, and for these reasons are commonly known as spider crabs. They have hooked bristles on their appendages and carapaces, called setae, that allow the crabs to attach items from their environment to their bodies to camouflage themselves and avoid predation. Despite variations in its local habitat, generally the same taxonomic groups are found on L. crispatus, such as bryozoans, tunicates, sponges, and various algae, throughout its habitat range (Wicksten 1978). This general trend might suggest that the crabs are preferentially choosing these taxa for decoration, yet this selectivity remains unexplored in previous studies. L. crispatus may behave similarly to other spider crabs in three distinct ways: either by selectively placing chemical deterrents on their carapaces, using their bodies for food storage, or by simply mimicking their environment. Additionally, it is not known whether the decorative organisms benefit from living on this mobile environment. As crabs decorate themselves, they could either facilitate or inhibit the well-being of the selected organisms. Thus my thesis questions include: (1) Is there evidence that the crabs are targeting their decorative organisms in a non-random way?, and (2) Are there measurable benefits or costs for organisms inhabiting a crab carapace?
A decorator crab, Loxorhynchus crispatus, clings onto a Pterygophora californica. Photo by: Gabriela Navas.