A spider crab at the Oregon Coast Aquarium has a new range of mobility thanks to yoga and the innovation of its caretakers.
A spider crab at the Oregon Coast Aquarium lost a few legs during her most recent molting process. According to the aquarium, spider crabs can weigh up to 44 pounds, measuring 13 feet across from leg tip to leg tip. For a crab of that size, molting can be difficult, resulting in damaged legs and reduced mobility.
While the spider crab could walk, Aquarium staff determined her quality of life could be improved if weight was taken off of her other legs. After conducting research and speaking with veterinary staff, the aquarist team decided to attach a block of material to the top of the crab’s shell to increase buoyancy and allow her to stand with less effort.
Using an object equal to the spider crab’s most recent weight allowed the team to conduct tests in a controlled environment. The aquarists tested materials and non-toxic adhesives on empty molts from other crabs to ensure they would not react with seawater or the shell. The team had to consider these variables, as well as the depth of the tank. At 9 feet deep, the depth would impact air spaces in the selected material. Staff concluded that yoga block foam was the ideal option.
The team fabricated a custom stretcher to comfortably transport and support the spider crab; the stretcher, made of PVC pipe and repurposed wetsuits, speaks to the ingenuity and wide skillset of the aquarists.
In full SCUBA gear, Aquarist Tiffany Rudek dove into the tank and secured the spider crab in the stretcher, gently bringing her to the surface. Within minutes, the custom-fit foam block was adhered to the spider crab’s shell.
“Once returned to the exhibit, she began walking with grace and verve,” reports Evonne Mochon-Collura, Curator of Fish and Invertebrates. “Her motions are stable and effortless.”
The spider crabs can be viewed at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, hunkered in their cold, dark exhibit that mimics their natural seafloor habitat off the coast of Japan.
About Oregon Coast Aquarium
The Oregon Coast Aquarium creates unique and engaging experiences that connect visitors to the Oregon Coast and inspire ocean conservation. An accredited Association of Zoos & Aquariums institution, this 501(c)3 non-profit organization is ranked as one of the top 10 aquariums in the U.S. Visit the aquarium 2820 S.E. Ferry Slip Rd., Newport, OR. aquarium.org, 541-867-3474.
Story provided courtesy the Oregon Coast Aquarium on February 26, 2021.