Scientists release hundreds of thousands of crabs in Florida to protect coral reefs

Move over, Florida Man — it's finally time for Florida Crab to shine! Amongst the many environmental threats facing the Sunshine State from every angle, Floridian coral reefs are in particular trouble, thanks in large part to overpopulations of vicious algae (fed on human waste, naturally). And the only way to save them from choking out all the coral reefs is by loosing wild hordes of crabs into DeSantisLand. As Vox explains:

Algae is one of the few winners in a world dominated by humans. It thrives on our waste, such as sewage and runoff from farmland, which is full of nitrogen and phosphorous — nutrients that algae need to grow. 

As pollution runs into the ocean, algae booms.

Meanwhile, animals that eat algae have declined precipitously in recent decades. In the 1980s, an unknown pathogen wiped out longspined sea urchins in the Caribbean. These marine invertebrates — which take the shape of an overfilled pin cushion — eat loads of algae. Similarly, overfishing and the loss of various ecosystems has caused declines in algae-eating fish, such as parrotfish. 

Like a fertilized pasture with no cows, a field of algae on a reef with no herbivores grows unencumbered. In the last decade, the extent of algae on reefs globally increased by roughly 20 percent, turning them from brilliant fields of color to monochrome patches of green.

This is a serious problem for coral.

Essentially, all that algae is preventing the coral reefs from growing. But coral reefs are helpful to the environment for a number of reasons — not the least of which being how they can offer crucial protections from other climate-related disasters.

And that's where the crabs come in. They apparently love munching on algae. So now there's a whole crew of scientists devoted to breeding hundreds of thousands of algae-eating crabs to loose upon the Florida population, and save their sunburned asses.

I, for one, welcome our crab saviors.

Scientists will unleash an army of crabs to help save Florida's dying reef [Benji Jones / Vox]