A new species of crab has been discovered off the coast of Western Australia. Though it doesn’t exactly resemble a crab, with its furry body looking more mammal than an arthropod. However, this hairy crustacean is 100% crab, and belongs to the genus Dromiidae, also known as the sponge crabs. This is due to these crabs having a penchant for wearing a sponge on their heads.
Sponge crabs are closely related to the hermit crab, who wear the shells of molluscs, changing to a new shell as they outgrow the old one. Similarly, sponge crabs use sea sponges as a camouflage, using their claws to fashion the sponge into the perfect shape for their head. And it very much resembles a hat.
However, these fluffy crabs aren’t making a fashion statement- the sponge keeps predators away in a couple of ways. Firstly, the sponge conceals the crab against would be predators, including octopus, fish and other crabs. Secondly, the sponge lets off such a noxious smell the aforementioned predators don’t want to get close enough to inspect what could be lurking under the sponge.
The crab has been given the name Lamarckdromia beagle after Charles Darwin’s research vessel the HMS Beagle. Charles Darwin explored Australia in the vessel, which is where the idea behind the Theory of Evolution came from.
According to Dr Andrew Hosie , the curator of crustacea and worms, at the Western Australian Museum told the ABC that this crab was the hairiest of the species yet:
“All members of this group of crabs are hairy to some extent but this one is ridiculous.”
Can’t get enough of crabs? Click here for another crustacean story, and read about the mass migration of red crabs