Crabs Feel Pain and Remember It

Not so good news for crustacean lovers.  According to a research from Queen's University Belfast researchers, crabs not only feel pain, but also remember it.  Professor Bob Elwood and Mirjam Appel, whose study was published in the journal Animal Behavior,  used electric shocks on hermit crabs to determine their response to unpleasant external stimuli.

Wires were attached to shells to deliver the small shocks to the abdomen of the some of the crabs within the shells.

The only crabs to get out of their shells were those which had received shocks, indicating that the experience is unpleasant for them. This shows that central neuronal processing occurs rather than the response merely being a reflex.

Crabs that had been shocked but had remained in their shell appeared to remember the experience of the shock because they quickly moved towards the new shell, investigated it briefly and were more likely to change to the new shell compared to those that had not been shocked.

Professor Elwood said: "There has been a long debate about whether crustaceans including crabs, prawns and lobsters feel pain.

"We know from previous research that they can detect harmful stimuli and withdraw from the source of the stimuli but that could be a simple reflex without the inner 'feeling' of unpleasantness that we associate with pain.

"This research demonstrates that it is not a simple reflex but that crabs trade-off their need for a quality shell with the need to avoid the harmful stimulus.

"Such trade-offs are seen in vertebrates in which the response to pain is controlled with respect to other requirements.

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From the Upcoming ueue, submitted by Geekazoid.


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I always figured they felt pain. I Still eat quite a bit of shellfish. Mmm I LOVE dungeness crab (catch it ourselves locally).
Creatures suffer, what can you do? Starve? Go vegan? But there again, plants are living things too. Humans don't photosynthesize, we have to consume other living things to survive. I'll shed a tear over the next crab i eat, someone pass the butter please.
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Quite right, Serich.

For anyone curious about the ethics and science of lobster-eating, I'd recommend the inimitable David Foster Wallaces' "Consider the Lobster:"

http://www.lobsterlib.com/feat/davidwallace/page/lobsterarticle.pdf
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It's true that crustaceans and other invertebrates are neurologically wired differently than we are, but that is not a solid basis for maintaining the argument that they do not feel pain. After all, their eyes have evolved differently than ours and are anatomically distinct, yet achieve the same function. This same argument was once used to justify the vivisection of live dogs to study their circulatory system while it was still functioning. The argument originates with voltaire and I believe is primarily employed to excuse our conscious when we conduct beastly studies or otherwise harm animals. Pain and emotions are strongly tied to the limbic system, which is one of the most basal portions of the brain and is certainly present in all tetrapods. Instances of maternal care, fear, jealousy, anger, and other behaviors that seem to have a 'pseudo-emotional' origin can be found in invertebrates across many different taxa Whether limbic analogs exist in these taxa is purely speculation. To be dead set in a stance one way or the other remains bad science until further research has been conducted. I myself am an eager carnivore and I have participated in the death of a number of creatures (both vertebrate and invertebrate) for reasons of scientific inquiry. However, I don't feel the need to delude myself with the belief that my food/subject did not suffer. I feel this gives me a greater respect for the creatures that die to support my diet/research. The stance that these animals do not suffer is anthropocentric - we humans/mammals are separate and superior due to our emotions. The argument seems to insist that emotions magically appeared in our species. I feel, however, that something as complex as emotion must surely have evolved in the same manner as any other complex system.
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