On Ocean Plastic Instead of Turtle Shells, Crabs Abandon Monogamy

The oceanic crab Planes minutus lives far from land. The crabs find a refuge between the upper shell and tail of loggerhead sea turtles, where they are nearly always found as a monogamous pair, one male and one female. But floating plastic trash in the ocean provides many new places for these crabs to live — and more space opens up many different ways for crabs to live and find partners.

“What’s really interesting is that the morphology of sea turtles seems to promote a particular mating system for the crabs,” said Mike Gil, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis. Gil is co-author on the study, published Sept. 21 in the journal Biology Letters, with Joseph Pfaller of the University of Florida.

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