H.N. Kort, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, University of California, Los Angeles; Richard L. Stine, MD/PhD, associate professor of clinical microbiology, Columbia University Medical Center; and David L. Fennell, PhD/Associate Professor of Pathology, Harvard Medical School, discuss the differences between a nymph and a mature crab.
The team’s study, published in the June 27 issue of the journal Nature Medicine, found that the differences in development were not necessarily a function of species or habitat, but rather the level of stress they were exposed to.
Nymphs and mature crabs have been shown to have higher levels of cortisol and adrenaline, and also are more sensitive to temperature fluctuations and toxins in the environment, Dr. Kord said.
The research team also examined whether the levels of immune cells in the nymphs were different from those of mature crabs.
The findings showed that nymph cells, like those in mature crabs, are able to recognize bacteria and viruses and recognize the bacteria from the environment.
They also were more sensitive and responsive to the environmental toxins and bacteria.
“These are things that we’ve known about for years, but this is the first time we’ve really seen them in crabs,” Dr. Ferenell said.
“It’s like looking at the immune system of an elephant, it’s very complex, and it’s really important for us to understand what’s going on in the body of an animal.”
The researchers noted that crabs are a popular pet and can be quite expensive, so they also wanted to see if the crabs’ immune systems could predict their price.
“If you’re looking for a pet that’s cheap and doesn’t need much care, a crab is a great choice,” Dr Ferenll said.
Crab owners often keep crabs in plastic containers, but that may not be the best choice for the crabs as they grow up and become more mobile, Dr Kort said.
They are also more vulnerable to predators, such as humans.
The researchers also found that they were more likely to develop the disease if the animals were kept in close quarters or in small, poorly ventilated environments.
“We found that a crab exposed to higher levels (of stress) would develop more of the disease than a crab that was exposed to less stress,” Dr Kord explained.