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This peculiar and stylish hairy crab wears live sponges for a hat

Por: María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards 21 de junio de 2022

This crab collects living sea sponges and trims them with his paws

A new species of crab has been discovered; however, this is not your regular crab with the usual appearance, it is actually a super hairy creature that, to make its looks even greater, uses live sea sponges as hats. This is the Lamarckdromia beagle crab, named after the ship used in Charles Darwin’s expedition that led him to create his great Origin of Species.

Previously, there were already known species of sponge crabs belonging to the family Dromiidae, which are characterized by the use of peculiar hats made of living marine sponges. However, none was known like the Lamarckdromia beagle, which is undoubtedly much fluffier and hairier than its congeners.

Live marine sponges used as hats

The species of crab discovered off the south coast of Western Australia is named after the HMS Beagle, the ship through which Darwin explored the world in search of answers about nature. It has an extremely unusual appearance because although there are other hairy crabs, none resembles this one in fluffiness. In addition, it uses an amazing camouflage mechanism, as it collects live sea sponges and cuts them with its legs to give them the desired shape and then places them on the upper part of its body as if it were a very picturesque hat.

“Crabs trim the sponge to shape it, let it grow into their body shape, and use it as a protective hat or blanket to keep them protected from predators such as octopuses and fish,” explains Dr. Andrew Hosie, a crustacean expert at the Western Australian Museum.

A fluffy appearance in every sense of the word

The expert also explains that this type of crab, which is extremely hairy, has great adaptability to the depth of the ocean, as it is possible to observe them from shallow waters, up to a few hundred meters below the sea surface. They commonly pile up on piers or anywhere with substantial sponge growth.

There they can acquire a live sea sponge that provides them with dual functionality since, in addition to allowing them to camouflage themselves against predators, it is also a toxic defense mechanism that adds to their safety.

Sponge crabs are found all along Australia’s coast, although Lamarckdromia beagle crabs have only been found between Albany and Cape Naturaliste in Western Australia. In fact, this is why they are named after the Beagle ship, which visited the city of Albany in 1836 with Darwin on board.

About their appearance, this species of crab is even hairier than other similar species of sponge crabs. Dr. Hosie says there is no clear explanation for this. However, he and other crustacean experts believe it is a mechanism that helps them camouflage their legs from marine predators. Be that as it may, these creatures are certainly unusual, and they are a strange sight to behold, as one rarely sees a fluffy crab.

Text courtesy of Ecoosfera

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