11 April 2011

Back to the start

It feels good to have a new paper on sand crabs.

I did my doctorate on sand crab digging, and one of the attractions of working here was the opportunity to follow up on some of that work.

But that said, this project got started in a roundabout way. My co-author, Unnam, was in our university’s honors program. She started with research projects with me fairly early in her undergrad career. That she started early meant that we had some time to try a few things that were a bit off my usual research path. We worked on several projects that were aimed at getting preliminary data, but they weren’t quite panning out.

Meanwhile... I had been collecting sand crabs on and off since I’d gotten to Texas. I’d see variation in colour, and somewhere along the line, realized that this was a puzzle. Why were some battleship gray, like miniature versions Blepharipoda that I did so much work with on my doctorate? And why were some white, much more like the west coast L. californica that I'd also seen during that work?

I suggested this to Unnam almost as a back-up plan, in case some of the other stuff we were working on continued to give us grief. Getting DNA data can be tricky, but how could you not get data on colour?

Well, the other projects did give us grief, so this one kept going.

And getting solid colour data wasn’t as easy as we first thought. Digital cameras are finicky things, auto-adjusting brightness and colours. This made it tricky to compare pictures of different animals.

Though trickier than we thought, in the end, Unnam successfully defended her honors thesis about a year ago. She’s now in medical school in Galveston, and we’re both pleased to have this paper get a wider audience than her honors committee.


Nasir U, Faulkes Z. 2011. Color polymorphism of sand crabs, Lepidopa benedicti (Decapoda, Albuneidae). Journal of Crustacean Biology 31(2): 240-245. DOI: 10.1651/10-3356.1

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