We’re back at the Monterey Bay Aquarium today. Shortly after our arrival, the kids are up to their elbow in touch-tank water. Then, the younger Free-Ride offspring gets critical.
“The decorator crabs here aren’t very decorated.”
“It’s true,” says the volunteer working the touch-tank. “These decorator crabs can’t smell any predators in their environment, so they figure they don’t need to try to hard.”
After a few moments with a deeply furrowed brow, the younger offspring asks, “How can I smell like a decorator crab predator and get the crabs to decorate themselves better?”
The volunteer laughs. I say, “Science fair project!”
Sure, we’d need at least one live decorator crab, and science fair projects with live animals are a big gray area as far as ethics and regulatory oversight. However, the Animal Welfare Act doesn’t (if I recall correctly) cover invertebrates.
Then there’s the small matter of generating predator smells. My better half is of the view that it shouldn’t be too hard, given our proximity to well-stocked sushi bars. “Start with octopus. I bet the crab gets decorated pretty fast.”
“Eventually, then, wouldn’t it be enough to put the scent of wasabi and pickled ginger in the water?” I ask.
Operant conditioning. Delicious operant conditioning.