March 27, 2009 -- Ripping the legs off live crabs and crowding lobsters into seafood market tanks are just two of the many practices that may warrant reassessment, given two new studies that indicate crustaceans feel pain and stress.
The findings add to a growing body of evidence that virtually all animals, including fish, shellfish and insects, can suffer.
Robert Elwood, the lead author of both papers, explained to Discovery News that pain allows an individual to be "aware of the potential tissue damage" while experiencing "a huge negative emotion or motivation that it learns to avoid that situation in the future."
Both pain and stress are therefore key survival mechanisms.
Elwood, a professor in the School of Biological Sciences at The Queen's University in Belfast, and colleague Mirjam Appel studied hermit crabs collected from rock pools in County Down, Northern Ireland. All of the crabs survived the experiments and were later released back into their native habitat.