31 January 2012

Tuesday Crustie: Ode to a sand crab

With two presentations on sand crabs this month (including one over the weekend, which went very well), sand crabs have been on my brain. Another thing that’s been on my brain is this quote from Martin Palmer in a presentation to the World Wildlife Fund late last year (hat tip to Randy Olson):

We never use a word unless you can show us a poem in which it’s been used. Because if people don’t love it enough to include it in a poem, it probably means it means nothing to them.

Because I want people to care about sand crabs, I found a poem that hung on the wall of the lab in graduate school. It was written about Emerita (Emerita analoga is pictured) rather than the Lepidopa benedicti which were the main focus of my talk, but what the heck.

Ode to a sand crab

A short ode to thee, my dear friend the crab
Whose life I once thought must be rather drab.
On the whole unexciting, most boring and bland
What joy could one find living life in the sand?

I walked by the shore and saw crabs by the score
And felt in my heart a great need to know more.
So I queried the crab, without being too forward
Of her constant displacement both seaward and shoreward.

She seemed quite surprised that I should inquire
Why crabs stay where they stay, rarely lower or higher.
We looked at each other eyeball to eyestalk,
And I listened intently as she started to talk.

“If we stray to high, we’re sure to be dried
So we make quite an effort to descend with the tide.
But with the fish in the surf, we must stay out of reach,
So we go with the tide when the tide moves upbeach.”

She went on with a sigh, “Ah, the things you should know.
You people, like crabs, should just go with the flow.
The waves bring us food, the sand’s a soft bed
We spend our time eating, preparing to shed.”

I pondered the crab and the crab’s view of fun,
Hiding out from the birds, and the fish, and the sun.
No family ties, no dad and no mum
And a diet consisting of diatom scum.

The difference between us is not so profound
My head’s in the air, and your head’s in the ground.
But Nature, I think, oft tends to repeat;
We all feed and respire, find mates, and excrete.

So what if my skin is so soft and you’re hardened,
You’d think such slight differences ought to be pardoned.
Where Nature’s concerned, there aren’t any norms
A life is a life, in all of its forms.

Paul Siegel, Ph.D.
University of California, Santa Barbara

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