Howdy, Weird Gramma here with “WeirdFins,” all about strange stuff in the sea, and brought to you by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And today’s strange thing is the Yeti crab, a really fluffy crustacean that’s sometimes called a furry lobster and lives in the Pacific Ocean off South America. It was discovered in 2005 by researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California, using a deep-sea submersible from the famous Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.
Now this critter’s only about six inches long, and it’s called the Yeti, like the abominable snowman of the Himalayas because it has light, silky hair all over its legs and claws. It’s not really a lobster, or even like most crabs you’ve seen. It’s more closely related to the hermit crabs you find in tidepools. But this furball lives in water a mile and a half deep where it’s inky black because no sunlight reaches that deep. Eyes aren’t very useful there, so the Yeti crab doesn’t have any.
And its hairs are really bristles that are loaded with bacteria, the germs that mostly keep us healthy but sometimes make us sick. No one’s sure why these critters have these bristles, but some scientists think it’s because they live near deep-sea lava flows and spouts called vents. Vents are sort of like Yellowstone Park’s Old Faithful geyser and the deep-sea ones spew out all kinds of chemicals. So the Yeti’s bristles and bacteria may help filter out that stuff. But other scientists think Yeti crabs may grow the bacteria to eat, although Yetis also eat mussels, shrimp, and other things.
Photo: A. Fifis/Ifremer (CC BY-NC 3.0)