Life as a Crayfish
Gidday, the name’s Trev and I’m what you call a crayfish or a Rock Lobster. You can find me in the South Pacific waters around Australia and New Zealand. I’m pretty stoked to be writing this today as I can’t say anyone else of my kind has done it before. I guess I’m just here to tell you a little bit about myself and my life story so far, like one of those autobiography things. So, let’s dive on in shall we?
Like every good story, it starts at the beginning. I was not what I look like now. No, I was a foetus or a naupliosoma larva to be exact. A naupliosoma larva is a little spider looking plankton that hatches its way out of the egg and then swims to the surface of the ocean. That can be anywhere between 5m-140m deep; some have it easier than others. When I reached the top, I underwent puberty phase one and then became a phyllosoma larva. These are considered ‘leaf- like’ because we’re so incredibly flat and thin and we’re also transparent. You’ll understand what I mean if you look at the oceanic ultrasound photo below. I was long- limbed and flimsy, letting the Pacific currents take me wherever they pleased - it was totally wicked. Soon enough, I underwent puberty phase 2 and transformed into the adorable Puerulus or Postlarva. Basically a miniature, transparent crayfish Gremmie measuring about 2.5cm. It took me one to two years to get to this stage. It’s from here where I decide to go and pay the olds a visit and show my face around the family home. Don’t ask me how I found my way back to my coastline because I was too young to remember and no one else knows either.
Mum and Dad had a very nice place in a not so nice area. Their rock crevice was big and spacious, which was good because after I arrived, four of my siblings came back home as well. We weren’t allowed to go out in the day as the sunlight made us go blind, but at night we would go out and hunt all sorts of things: starfish, kina, crabs and shellfish. My parents always said we were safer in the dark. That was true to some extent. We grew up in the Hauraki Gulf and there were countless abductions in our neighbourhood. There would be invasions of slender, bipedal seals with big reflective eyes, peering into every dark crack and hole in the area. Every weekend at least six crays around the reef would go missing. We have had many close calls as a family as well. Usually when the invaders come, my parents go to the back of the crevice and my siblings and I stand at the front. Over the years we have realised that these creatures only take the bigger ones with wider tails, typically a guy at 54 mm and a chick at 60mm. They’d poke and prob their soft phalanges or metallic rope and sticks in our home, grasping at anything they can get their hands on. My youngest brother, Phil, had his antennas ripped off once and they didn't grow back for over 6 months. One day, my sister Shelly was abducted. However, they must of realised she wasn’t big enough because she plummeted back down to us, but by then she was blinded by the sunlight. It was always a constant battle for survival and safety and there was no sign of this carnage stopping. We’ve been claimed functionally extinct because of the actions of these invaders.
Once I turned seven years old, I was matured and big enough to move out of home. I found a crack a couple reefs away and had a yellow moray eel as a flatmate. He was a strange fellah, looked like he never slept a day in his life. The best thing was that the invaders seemed to of stayed away from our house because of him… I don’t blame them. Being out of home I found a new freedom. My mates and I would crawl ramped and seek havoc on the sea floor during the nights, pestering sleeping Parore and Moki. We were young and dumb adults always staying out till mid-morning after a long night out at the local reef raves. I remember on one my best bud’s eleventh birthdays, he wanted to go the new pop-up night club. I refused to go. There were always stories of legal sized (and some cheeky undersized) crays going into the these clubs and then vanishing. Quite a few of them were going around, but the most common one was (and still is) known as the Cray Pot. He went into the venue that night and sure enough mate, he was gone the next morning and never to be seen again. Iv’e lost many friends over the years due to that.
A couple years passed and I met the love of my life. I moved into my own place, inside a hole in a sea cave. I hired a couple cleaner shrimp and spent most of my time thinking about the existence of our species and our life of fear from these invaders. It got pretty lonely. That is until that glorious day came. It was during the mating season in the late New Zealand summer and I was out on the seafloor for a midnight walk. Bioluminescence lit up the ocean with every movement and a sea of stars danced over head. I followed the smell of pheromones in urine as I secreted my own and that is when I found her, Luna. It was love at first sight and we embraced antennas and claws within our golden bath. From that point on, we stayed in my sea cave together and lived happily.
However, it is now time for some big life changes for Luna and I. As of today, we are expecting. Growing, attached to the tiny hairs on Luna’s abdomen, is 550,000 crayfish eggs. We’re going to be parents! But there is just one problem. We’re tired of hiding and living in terror, fearing for our lives as we’ve always had. We don’t want to put our children’s lives at risk anymore than they’d have to be and there is only one way to do this. There has been talk about a gated community over by the Leigh Harbour. A place were marine life thrives, lives peacefully and is out of harms way. A place where the invaders arrive but don't invade, hunt or pillage. The safe haven. A marine reserve, Goat Island Marine Reserve. If we can march over there before our thousands of naupliosoma larva hatch, then our children will come back to safety. We’ve got six months to make our voyage, overcoming many dangers, predators and ocean currants. Both luna and I are willing to make every sacrifice for the future lives of the crayfish population.
As you can see, it’s not easy being a crayfish. It is very difficult for us a species to thrive and live safely out of harms way due to these invaders. If only they knew when to stop. But nether the less, we push to keep going and provide the best for our offspring. The marine reserves are our best chance of survival in these endangering time. The more there are, the better. If you ever have the opportunity to do your bit in helping out, take it. You are our only hope.