Sea Creature of the Week: Yeti Crab

Jun 20 2012

The yet crab was discovered in 2005 during a research expedition using the submarine DSV Alvin

Scientific Name: Kiwa hirsuta

Home: The first-known yeti crab was found living near a hydrothermal vent in the South Pacific in 2005. Since then, they have been found around the world, including several miles under the surface of the Southern Ocean near Antarctica, thriving next to boiling vents of water. The crabs live in temperatures of almost 400C (752F).

Physical Characteristics: The crab is a blind deep-sea crab whose legs are covered with long, pale yellow hairs.

Food: It was seen eating mussels that were cracked open originally, but they also saw Yeti crabs holding their hairy claws out over the hydrothermal vents, possibly catching bacteria. Scientists speculated that the crabs might be “farming” the bacteria, perhaps as a source of food.

Conservation Status: They found that the crab was not only a new species (which they named Kiwa hirsuta), but an entirely new family (Kiwaidae). The Yeti crab is a distant relative to the hermit crabs commonly seen lurking in tide pools. Interest in mining deep-sea hydrothermal vents is likely to increase, so concern has been expressed about the potential for damage to sites in international waters.

Fun Fact: Because of its hairy legs, this animal was nicknamed the “Yeti crab,” after the fabled Yeti, the abominable snowman of the Himalayas. Another of its nicknames developed was the Hasselhoff crabs because of the hair on their undersides, the equivalents of their chests.

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