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New Crab Discovery in Antarctica

Jun 25, 2015 03:04 PM EDT
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A yeti crab is like a South Beach fan that hangs out in Sweden: making do with the weather, but reeling in the health benefits and free saunas.

That is, the blind, bristly crab, Kiwa tyleri, which loves warm water, has been discovered in warm hydrothermal vents in Antarctica, say researchers from the University of Southampton in England, in a new paper published in the open-source journal PLOS ONE. 

This is only the third known species of yeti crab, and the other two were also found hiding out in a cross-current of some kind. Its cousin Kiwa hirsuta was discovered in a hydrothermal vent in the southern Pacific Ocean in 2005. The other yeti type, Kiwa puravida, was discovered living in a cold seep off the coast of Costa Rica in 2006.

This is the first yeti to be found in the Southern Ocean.  

"Crabs and lobsters are very rare in Antarctic/Southern Ocean waters because of the unusually low seawater temperatures," Sven Thatje, lead author of the report and associate professor of marine evolutionary ecology at the University of Southampton, said, according to Live Science.

Hydrothermal vents, however, provide that free-sauna effect. In fact, researchers found 700 yeti crabs per square meter, making the crabs the dominant species at these sites. 

Away from Antarctica's hydrothermal vents, nearby water temperatures however around or even below freezing. Despite this, some females leave the vent warmth to brood eggs away from the vent's sulfur-rich emissions, Thatje said, according to Live Science. 

While yeti crabs always have bacteria in their bristle fur, the Kiwa tyleri has fur over its chest as well. As a result, some researchers have dubbed the newly discovered species the "Hoff crab," after "Baywatch" actor David Hasselhoff, according to Live Science. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) talks about hydrothermal vents here. 

National Geographic has a video about hydrothermal-vent life here.

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