Land crabs and other local creatures are the focus of a number of research projects under way in North Side.
The land crab research, along the Queen’s Highway and at Barkers National Park, is overseen by biology professor David Bass, who is also curator of invertebrates at the University of Central Oklahoma in the U.S.
Though many Caymanians know a great deal about the white land crab (Cardisoma guanhumi) and black land crab (Gecarcinus ruricola), there is very little scientific information about these populations, thus prompting the research.
The project’s goals are to estimate current land crab populations, collect basic morphological data on such things as weight, sex, and color, determine peak breeding seasons, and estimate mortality rates caused by vehicular traffic.
Researchers hope the results of this study will contribute to a better understanding of land crab biology and be of use to environmental biologists and resource managers, such as those in the Department of Environment. They could use the data to monitor land crab populations and ensure they remain sustainable.
Kinsey Tedford, one of Dr. Bass’s graduate students who is helping with the fieldwork, said she feels “honored” to be able to conduct her thesis research on Grand Cayman’s land crabs.
“I love seeing all the color variations in the black land crab species found along Queen’s Highway. My crabbing skills are improving every night,” she noted. Jessica Harvey of the Department of Environment said the study has been going smoothly.
“Field data is still being collected, so we don’t have any results yet. Data collection will wrap up beginning of August, after which analysis will start,” said Ms. Harvey.
She said Ms. Tedford’s study “will be instrumental in providing basic information on the general natural history of the four species of land crabs found in Grand Cayman, and the results of the analysis will identify what the next steps are for developing longer term monitoring protocols for the land crab populations.
“The DoE are very happy to support this work and look forward to the results.”
Dr. Bass’s research on the biodiversity and ecology of Cayman’s invertebrates goes back many years. He first traveled to Little Cayman in 1997 to collect invertebrates from coastal ponds and caves. His first collecting trip to Grand Cayman was in 2003, and he has returned almost every year since. He has also made collections on Cayman Brac and identified organisms sent to him by others.
Dr. Bass continues to study these invertebrates and has documented more than 100 species from ponds and caves across the Cayman Islands. Many of the invertebrates he has collected were not known to exist in the Cayman Islands before his investigations, and some of them are found only on these islands. All of the studies are conducted with the approval and cooperation of the Department of Environment.
“Dr. David Bass has been of great benefit to the Cayman Islands, studying and sharing his knowledge over the years,” said John Lawrus, general manager of the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.
“I have known Dr. Bass since he first visited in 2003 and look forward each year to his visit to continue his research and studies, particularly at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park,” Mr. Lawrus said. “The continued work provides us with important insight to the biodiversity that is located in the Botanic Park and the entire Cayman Islands.”
Some of Dr. Bass’s other current research projects in Cayman include long-term biomonitoring of pond invertebrates in the Botanic Park, examining biodiversity of cave invertebrates, tracking the spread of the introduced crayfish (Procambarus alleni) and looking at the colonization of wild plantain (Heliconia caribeae) bracts by aquatic invertebrates.