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Opinion, Special Report, Americas
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You can see footage of that behavior in action in this New Scientist YouTube clip. And then things get even more amazing. As the researchers discovered in a pair of experiments, a one-weaponed boxer crab will split its remaining anemone into two fragments. The resulting fragments then regenerate over the course of several days into two distinct clones. Let's see Bruce Lee do that. Schnytzer and Giman are no strangers to the mystery of crab boxing. The two biologists previously worked on a 2013 study published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, which revealed the boxer crab's bonsai-like treatment of their claw-clutched bioweapons. They use them to catch food and defend themselves, but they also starve the anemone enough to regulate their size. Now, the researchers' latest study reveals the crab's manipulation goes beyond symbiont tool use. Molecular fingerprinting of anemone pairs taken from wild crabs revealed even more identical clone weapons, suggesting the practice is widespread. Given the apparent absence of wild Alicia sea anemones and the boxer crabs' talent for inducing clonal reproduction, we're left with a tantalizing question: Are there any free-living Alicia left, or does the species continue as a purely cultivated weapon species? The situation would not be unlike the domesticated fungi of leaf-cutter ants. Schnytzer say that the cultivation explanation is possible. “Bottom line, my guess is they exist but are probably very rare,” Schnytzer told HowStuffWorks by email. Regardless, the researchers' findings provide us with a seemingly unique example of one animal inducing the asexual reproduction of another - and for tool use! Humans may claim the honors to bioweapon supremacy for the moment, but the boxer crabs are ready to claim the prize just as soon as we wipe ourselves out with a mishandled plague virus or two.




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