No, Plastic Pollution Isn't Driving Crabs Into a Sexual Frenzy

The PR department at the university got ahead of themselves.In the last day or so, many headlines featuring lurid information about the sex lives and actions of crabs have appeared on the internet.The Washington Post: Researchers say plastic pollution in the ocean has caused hermit crabs to become sexually stimulatedThe Week: Plastic waste and sexually thrilling crabsSky News: Plastic pollution causes hermit crabs to become sexually stimulatedAdvertisementAdvertisementIt turns out that the story was the result of a marketing team overenthusiastic and a news cycle with a happy trigger.A team of scientists from the University of Hull, UK found that hermit crabs may be susceptible to oleamide. This chemical is released from plastic waste.However, oleamide has been known to be a sex hormone for some marine species. Futurism was told by the researchers that their research doesn't prove that it affects crabs sexually.Futurism reports that Paula Schirmacher, co-author and Hull researcher, misunderstood us. Prior research at the University of Hull had identified oleamide in the sex bouquet of cleaner shrimp. However, this study found that hermit crabs respond to oleamide in a manner similar to a food cue.AdvertisementAdvertisementWaPos' original press release appears sensational, which is something that can be defended.According to Sky News, love island fever has gripped the country in recent weeks as drama and romance take center stage in living rooms all over the country. A research team from the University of Hull is studying another type of attraction that occurs in the waters off the Yorkshire coast, but Casa Amor is far away. Their conclusion? Plastics released in the ocean may cause sexual stimulation in hermit crabs.A revised version of this statement has been removed all references to sexually stimulated hermit crabs and all other sexual content, except for the fact that oleamide in shrimp is a known sex pheromone.The researchers found that the presence of oleamide actually caused the hermits to grab for food. The substance caused the crabs to have a higher respiration rate, which indicates excitement. However, this finding simply indicated that they misidentified the substance as a food source.AdvertisementAdvertisementThey were excited about the possibility of a delicious snack.Schirrmacher stated in the revised statement that Oleamide has a striking resemblance with oleic Acid, which is a chemical released during decomposition by arthropods. Hermit crabs can mistakenly identify oleamide in their diet, causing a trap.Despite the mishap in PR, this research is just a part of a larger and more worrying picture. Plastic pollution has reached a critical point in the oceans. The World Wildlife Fund found that every second turtle in the ocean has eaten plastic. Last month, a study found that plastic pollution is rapidly approaching a tipping point where it will be impossible to reverse the damage done by our irreversible footprint on the planet.However, there is no evidence that it drives crabs into a sexual frenzy.AdvertisementAdvertisementJon Christian provides additional reporting.Scientists say the world is approaching a non-reversible tipping point in plastic pollution