For reasons that scientists don’t as yet clearly understand, different types of creatures keep evolving into something that looks a lot like a crab. And it’s freaking people out.
The observation that several different types of animal have developed a crab-like form dates back to a paper by British scientist Lancelot Borradaile.
In it, he invented the word “carcinisation” to describe the “many attempts” that nature has made to create crabs.
The crab body shape is a very successful form, and as a result, evolution has tried it on at least five separate occasions.
Only two of those “attempts” led to what scientists would call a true crab and the others have given rise to creatures that may look a lot like crabs to the average person but in fact have no common lineage.
“There has to be some kind of evolutionary advantage to being this crablike shape,” says Heather Bracken-Grissom, a Marine Invertebrates Expert and Associate Professor at Florida International University.
Or, as random Twitter user FFXIV Battle Jobs & Dungeon Guide put it: “It’s honestly really concerning how carcinisation is a real phenomenon where seemingly unrelated organisms gradually, over the course of millennia, evolve into crabs.
“I hope I don’t become a crab.”
Of course, evolution takes place over millions of years, rather than people just waking up one morning with a crablike shell and a sideways walk, but that didn’t stop Twitter user RagNTag remarking out of the blue: “I hope I become a crab… crab time.”
The word has captured social media users’ imaginations, with dozens upon dozens of tweets and Tumblr posts on the subject of carcinisation, and how it might reveal some secret truth about biology.
Some are speculating that aliens might well look like crabs because it’s such a successful body layout.
Others, more simply, are just saying “carcinisation is so funny like imagine just turning into a crab”.
In a week or two, the carcinisation craze will no doubt be forgotten and internet users will all be talking about something else – but for now, an obscure theory dreamed up in 1916 is the hottest thing online.