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Hermit crab behaviour affected by microplastics
"This study shows how the microplastic pollution crisis is threatening biodiversity more than is currently recognised" - Mánus Cunningham.

The microplastics impede the crabs' ability to attack and defend. 

New research from Queen's University Belfast has discovered microplastics affect hermit crabs' ability to fight during shell fight contests, which are vital for the species' survival.

The study expands upon previous research by Queen's University which demonstrated that hermit crabs were less likely to touch or enter high-quality shells when exposed to microplastics. 

Published in Royal Society Open Science, the study explores how hermit crabs' behaviour is effected when exposed to microplastics, and discovered that the microplastics impair both the attacking and defending behaviour of hermit crabs during contests, affecting their ability to secure the larger shell necessary for growth and survival. 

The research process involved keeping hermit crabs in two tanks, one containing polyethylene spheres, and one with plastic for five days. The researchers stimulated the environment to encourage a hermit crab contest through placing pairs of hermit crabs in an arena, and giving each crab the wrong sized-shell to encourage a fight.

Crabs exposed to the plastic displayed weaker attacking behaviour during fights than those not exposed to plastic, and it was found that the microplastics also reduced the crabs' defending ability to properly assess their attackers during contests. 

Mánus Cunningham, one of the paper's lead researchers, commented: “These findings are hugely significant as they illustrate how both the information-gathering and shell evaluations were impaired when exposed to microplastics.

“Although 10% of global plastic production ends up in the ocean, there is very limited research on how this can disrupt animal behaviour and cognition. 

“This study shows how the microplastic pollution crisis is threatening biodiversity more than is currently recognised.”

Dr Gareth Arnott, principal investigator of the project, added: “This study provides an insight into the potential for microplastics to alter important aspects of animal behaviour that are critical for survival and reproduction.

“We need to further investigate how microplastics affect their behaviour and the consequences, armed with this knowledge to advocate for change to protect our ecosystem.”

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Laura Muir wins gold at Commonwealth Games

News Story 1
 Veterinary surgeon and Olympic silver-medalist Laura Muir scooped the gold medal in the 1500m final Commonwealth Games on Sunday.

Winning Scotland's 12th title of the games, Muir finished in four minutes 2.75 seconds, collecting her second medal in 24 hours.

Dr Muir commented on her win: "I just thought my strength is in my kick and I just tried to trust it and hope nobody would catch me. I ran as hard as I could to the line.

"It is so nice to come here and not just get one medal but two and in such a competitive field. Those girls are fast. It means a lot." 

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Views sought on NOAH Compendium

Users of the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) Compendium app and website are being asked to share their views on how it can be improved.

In a new survey, users are asked about some suggested future developments, such as notifications for new and updated datasheets, sharing links to datasheets, and enhanced search functionality.

It comes after NOAH ceased publication of the NOAH Compendium book as part of its sustainability and environmental commitments. The website and the app will now be the main routes to access datasheets and view any changes.