Don’t be fooled, don’t hug a yeti crab

Normally I’d say crabs don’t quite have the look to be able to pull off a walk down the street with a large sign advertising free hugs. However, with the yeti crab I have to make an exception because they’re fuzzy and they dance.

Like something from a Disney film, their tough sharp claws and skinny legs have been made all the more G rated with a thick coating of teddy bear fur which they move back and forth around the sea floor.

This coated crab consists of just two illusive species that amazingly lay hidden on the ocean floor until 2005 and 2006. And like all of the weird stuff that live in the deep ocean there’s more than meets the eye.

So I can tell you right now, that’s not teddy bear fur, and you don’t want to hug a yeti crab.

I’ll also explain the dancing.

Photo source: Bernard Wee
Can you see a face with a tongue sticking out on its back too? Photo source: Flickr

 

Perhaps the most obvious reason to avoid a yeti crab hug, is that these are deep-sea animals that live around hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. That right there is a problem due to the lack of oxygen at 2.5km deep and the fact that hydrothermal vents can barf out water at temperatures as high as 407°C.

The second species of yeti crab described only in 2011 would also be no good as they hang out near the fluid escaping from deep-sea methane seeps. Also not appealing.

 

Hanging out in a hostile environment. Photo source: National Environment Research Council
Hanging out in a hostile environment. Photo source: National Environment Research Council

 

The slightly less obvious reason to not hug a yeti crab is the dark secret the hair on their claws hides.  How’s it so very fuzzy? Oh well, that’d just be because each of their every thousands of setae, or hairs, is in turn smeared with a tick cluster of bacteria.

And no one wants to hug that.

The exact nature of the relationship between this bacteria and the Yeti crab is still uncertain, but it’s believed they’re actually farming it as a food source.

And this brings us back to the dancing. By continuously moving their hairy, bacteria ridden claws they increase oxygen flow to the bacteria and this helps them grow and multiply into a hearty meal. So sadly I don’t think the yeti crabs are David Bowie fans, but efficient farmers making sure their freaky bacteria crop produce them some food.

But that’s okay I guess, and while I wouldn’t hug them, I definitely love them in all their hairy, un-huggable glory.

 

Hairy heart throb
Hairy heart throb

 

References:

Goffredi, S. K., Jones, W. J., Erhlich, H., Springer, A., & Vrijenhoek, R. C. (2008). Epibiotic bacteria associated with the recently discovered Yeti crab, Kiwa hirsuta. Environmental microbiology, 10(10), 2623-2634.

Haase, K. M., Petersen, S., Koschinsky, A., Seifert, R., Devey, C. W., Keir, R., … & Weber, S. (2007). Young volcanism and related hydrothermal activity at 5° S on the slow‐spreading southern Mid‐Atlantic Ridge. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 8(11).

Thurber, A. R., Jones, W. J., & Schnabel, K. (2011). Dancing for food in the deep sea: bacterial farming by a new species of yeti crab. PLoS One, 6(11), e26243.

2 comments

  1. These crabs look so adorable!!! I wouldn’t actually give them a hug, but you know, if someone made one into a cuddly toy I wouldn’t complain …
    Also, my inner-pedantic-chemist will kill me if I don’t say that hydrothermal vents stink because of all the sulphur – methane is actually odourless.
    Great post, though! You’ve inspired me to try and write one of these again soon 🙂

    Like

    • Haha well I did find some stuffed toy versions in my research 😉
      http://www.mediatinker.com/blog/archives/009547.html

      And thank you sharnie’s inner scientist for pointing that out! Dang I remember learning that in high school now and completely forgot haha.

      I even got an email from my Grandfather correcting me too, you’re both very switched on hahaha.

      I look forward to reading your next post!! 😀

      Like

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