The Dungeness crab is losing its sense of smell, putting it at risk – and climate change may be to blame

A new study by researchers at the University of Toronto finds that climate change is causing a commercially significant marine crab to lose its sense of smell, which could partially explain why their populations are thinning. 

The research was done on Dungeness crabs and found that ocean acidification causes them to physically sniff less, impacts their ability to detect food odours and even decreases activity in the sensory nerves responsible for smell.  

“This is the first study to look at the physiological effects of ocean acidification on the sense of smell in crabs,” says Cosima Porteus, an assistant professor in the department of biological sciences at U of T Scarborough and co-author of the study along with post-doctoral researcher Andrea Durant.      

The Earth’s oceans are becoming more acidic because they are absorbing increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Such ocean acidification is a direct consequence of burning fossil fuels and carbon pollution – and several studies have shown it’s having an impact on the behaviour of marine wildlife.

Follow this link to read the full research article.

Don Campbell, U of T News, 9 May 2023. Press release.

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