by (AP) BARATARIA, La.
Published: Mon, August 09, 2010 - 4:27 am CST
Last Updated: Mon, August 09, 2010 - 12:36 pm CST
Short URL: http://wkrg.com/911890
Researchers wondering how badly the Gulf of Mexico will suffer from the oil spill are paying close attention to the blue crab.
Weeks ago, scientists discovered specks of oil on crab larvae. They say it's an ominous sign that crude has infiltrated the Gulf's vast food web and could affect it for years.
Biologist Harriet Perry of the University of Southern Mississippi says about 40 percent of Gulf waters that crab larvae inhabit have been affected by the spill.
She says scientists are focusing on crabs because they're a "keystone species" that play a crucial role in the food web as both predator and prey.
Crabs are also big business. Some 33 million pounds are harvested annually in Louisiana, generating nearly $300 million.