After Matthew corrected this story via Twitter, it’s still up prominently on the Guardian website (at least as of 6:30 this morning Chicago time). Click to read:
The relevant bit from the story is this:
Thousands of venomous crabs converged on the beaches of Cornwall due to rising sea temperatures caused by the climate crisis. The migratory creatures swarmed in the shallow water in St Ives, shedding their shells before returning to depths of up to 300ft.
The crustaceans are instantly recognisable for their long legs and pincers and have a venomous bite that is poisonous to their prey but harmless to humans.
Oy! What clickbait: guaranteed to drive the swimmers out of the Cornwall seas! And it did!
Their presence at Porthgwidden Beach was enough to put many bathers off entering the sea.
However, Kate Lowe, a marine photographer captured the event just days after a snorkeler was bitten by a blue shark during an excursion off Penzance.
Remember, this has happened “just days after a snorkeler was bitten by a blue shark” – like that has anything to do with anything except alarming people!
Furthermore, it’s wrong: this species, Hyas araneus, the giant spider crab, is not venomous. As far as I know, while some crabs are poisonous (their bodies contain toxins that could kill you), no crabs are venomous, i.e., injecting venom into their prey.
These crabs are innocuous unless they nip you. But how did the Guardian get it wrong? Matthew explains:
The article is about spider crabs, which are indeed crabs. They are coming into shallow, warm waters in Cornwall to moult together. About two days ago, the tabloids here had the story, and said these crabs were venomous but this was harmless to humans. The Guardian freelancer basically cut and pasted the story, including this phrase, which comes from a Google hit for “crab spider” (which is a spider, and is obviously venomous). They also headlined it “Venomous visitors”. There is only one known venomous crustacean, it is a remipedian (more closely related to a fly than to a crab).
Matthew even tweeted to the Guardian to get them to correct this (we petulant biologists dislike these errors, especially if they can panic the public):
Like the rest of the UK press, @guardian writes a crappy clickbait article using near-identical terms claiming these crabs are “venemous”. THIS IS NOT TRUE and is the result of google hits for “crab spiders”! Stop it! Pls RT https://t.co/pgoj5Wy2Tl
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) August 7, 2022
This was over four hours ago, and the headline stays. (I also tweeted them.) As Matthew emailed me:
They won’t chnage it… Any more than any of the tabloids did. Google thisare spider crabs venomousAnd you get about a dozen identical articles – from all the leading UK media – with the same crap cut and pasted…