Limb loss and other Injuries are common in marine systems. Recent estimates show that over 40% of invertebrates in nearshore environments are living with nonlethal injuries at any given time. Additionally, there is some evidence that injuries become more prevalent in systems with heavy human impacts. Some species are capable of regrowing lost limbs, but this requires physiological tradeoffs, since energy allocated to limb regeneration cannot be used for growth or reproduction. Our lab studies energy allocation following nonlethal injury in several species of coastal crabs. Most of this work has focused on the invasive Asian shore crab on New England shores, mangrove tree crabs in mangrove forests on the Florida coast, and Florida stone crabs, a species that is caught and declawed commercially in several US southeastern states.
We use optimality modeling to determine strategies that individuals should use following injury, combined with physiological measurements of field-sampled crabs to test model predictions. While our work in this area focuses on crabs, it has implications for reptiles and numerous invertebrate phyla where recovery from nonlethal injury is common.