Carcinology is the study of hard shelled aquatic creatures like shrimp, crabs, and crayfish. In this lesson, learn more about what carcinologists do, and what we can learn from these amazing creatures!
What is Carcinology?
Jennifer stands in knee deep water holding a net in her hand. With the net, she scoops up hundreds of tiny shrimp every time she dips it into the water. Jennifer isn’t about to eat these shrimp, however.
Instead, she is a scientist who studies the biology of crustaceans like shrimp. The branch of science that studies crustaceans is called carcinology, and scientists like Jennifer who study these fascinating creatures are called carcinologists.
Types of Animals studied by Carcinologists
Carcinologists study all types of crustaceans, a group of animals that includes crabs, shrimp, lobsters, crayfish, and barnacles.
Crustaceans are part of a larger group of animals known as arthropods, which also includes things like insects, spiders, and millipedes. Crustaceans have some features in common with other arthropods, such as the presence of a hard, outer shell, called an exoskeleton, on the outside of their bodies.However, unlike some types of arthropods, such as insects, which all possess similar body segments, crustaceans exhibit a wide variety of body styles and can be found in all colors, sizes, and shapes. In fact, they are one of the most diverse groups of animals on Earth! More than 70,000 different species of crustaceans have been identified so far living in a wide variety of habitats, from the deep ocean to high up in the tallest mountains.
Most live in or near water, with some being adapted to live in freshwater and others in salt water.In addition to being very diverse, crustaceans have also been living on Earth for a very long time. The first crustaceans appeared about 600 million years ago during the early Cambrian period, and many modern species of crustaceans still exist that are quite similar to these far distant ancestors!
History of Carcinology
The study of carcinology has been going on for a long time.
In the 1800’s, Charles Darwin conducted an extensive study on barnacles, a type of crustacean. These studies provided a lot of the data that he used to develop the theory of evolution in his famous book, On the Origin of Species.Another important carcinologist who lived during the same time period was Henri Milne Edwards, who served as the director of the Natural History Museum in Paris, France. He wrote a very extensive series of books in which he listed and described 1400 different species of crustaceans.
His son, Alphonse, continued his father’s work in carcinology, publishing many more books and papers about crustaceans.The famous American scientist James Dwight Dana, who founded the National Academy of Science, and is often considered to be America’s first professional scientist, also studied carcinology, although his main field of study was geology. He wrote a massive book titled Report on the Crustacea, in which he described many new species and laid out a system for classifying crustaceans.
From these early beginnings in the 1800’s, the study of carcinology has continued to expand. Today, there are many scientists throughout the world who are working to further understand crustaceans.
What can We Learn from Carcinology?
Since there are so many types of crustaceans, there is certainly a lot to learn from carcinology. Carcinologists often study things like the life cycle of crustaceans, the environments in which they live, and their genetics.Many types of crustaceans are eaten by people throughout the world.
By studying crustaceans, carcinologists can help ensure that these animals are raised in a humane and safe way so that the species will continue to thrive.Carcinologists have even studied the most humane way to kill crustaceans that will be cooked and eaten. Most people always thought that these relatively primitive animals could not feel pain.
As a result, they are often cooked while still alive. However, recently, carcinologists devised a clever experiment to demonstrate that crabs, a type of crustacean, actually do feel and remember pain. Could this influence the way that crabs and other crustaceans are cooked and eaten by people? It’s likely that it will if even more evidence is gathered by carcinologists that proves that crustaceans do, in fact, feel pain like other animals.
Carcinology and the Environment
Carcinology also plays an important role in understanding the role that pollution and climate change may have on the environment.
Since crustaceans live primarily in water and reproduce relatively quickly, they are very sensitive to changes in the ocean environment. As the ocean water warms, carcinologists are studying what effect the warmer temperatures might have on the reproduction and life cycle of these delicate creatures.It’s already well known that pollution in the ocean can have a negative effect on crustaceans. Chemicals in the water can be absorbed by the crustaceans that live in it. This affects not only the animals themselves, but also other animals that might eat them, including people! Carcinologists are working to understand this process and determine the best way to protect crustaceans from the effects of pollution in the world’s lakes, rivers, and oceans.
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