Kent State professors receive $100,000 to study crustaceans

Brittney Trojanowski

Two Kent State professors are compiling observations and studying past adaptations of decapods to determine the creature’s diversity in the future.

Decapods, commonly known as crustaceans, have adapted to various environments over time.

“We’ve noticed that lobsters are less diverse now than they were in the past,” geology professor Carrie Schweitzer said. “We’re not sure why, but that’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

They received a grant earlier this fall from the National Science Foundation for $100,000 to help continue their work they have been researching since the 2000s, Schweitzer said.

Geology faculty member Rodney Feldmann said the grant money would help pay a few recruited undergraduate students for data-entry analysis.

The money will also help fund trips to museums to collect data, Schweitzer said.

The documenting of all these observations will help us know what these creatures might be like in the future, the two researchers said.

Knowing how these decapods adapted to changes in the environment and observing what types of species have thrived or dwindled will help us understand adaptations and decapod diversity, Schweitzer explained. They also can figure out if the diversity of lobsters, crabs and shrimp is a result of environmental changes or something like increased fishing.

The current climate crisis will take a toll on the decapods and their diversity, Feldmann said, because the ocean is a major part being affected by the changes.

Although the climate today is roughly the same as the Cretaceous period when there weren’t any ice caps and dinosaurs were living in what is now Antarctica, Schweitzer said, it would still produce a slightly different outcome.

“The temperatures are increasing at a much faster rate due to our changing climate than back then when they were increasing at a much slower rate,” Schweitzer said. “So the rate of increase could bring about decreases in species or extinction that we couldn’t see coming.”

Over-fishing can have a big effect on decapod diversity, Schweitzer said. It decreases the decapods’ populations faster than they can reproduce and are unable to sustain abundance.

Over-fishing has also caused the extinction of some species of decapods, Feldmann added.

“The American Red Lobster population has dwindled due to over-fishing,” Schweitzer said. “But we’ve since put more regulations on fishing, so they are slowly coming back.”

The researchers don’t have much in terms of results yet, but their findings are interesting, Feldmann said.

“We expect to see definite patterns of diversity over time,” Schweitzer said. “There will be times when different groups were more diverse than they are now and vice versa. I think we’ll also see a species that became diverse and led to the diversification of another.”

Contact her at Brittney Trojanowski at [email protected].