Discovery of Furry Crustacean Yields New Family
An international team of marine biologists recently announced the discovery of Kiwa hirsuta, a ten-legged crustacean that resembles a lobster covered with what looks like silky, blond fur. Dubbed the “Yeti crab,” the species was discovered 900 hundred miles south of Easter Island in the South Pacific, living near a hydrothermal vent at an ocean depth of about 7,540 feet. The biologists were conducting a diving cruise to learn how geographical barriers affect the distribution of animals living near vents along the Pacific and Pacific-Antarctic Ridges.
The crustacean is about 5.9 inches long and blind. Its morphological characteristics and genetic makeup led to the creation of a new taxonomic family, Kiwaidae, named after Kiwa, the mythical Polynesian goddess of shellfish.
Kiwa hirsuta's most distinct characteristic is the blond hair-like strands, called setae, which cover its appendages. Scientists found the setae to be full of bacteria; the purpose of either the setae or bacteria is not yet known.
The team, led by a scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, described the new species in the journal of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.
Sources: BBC News, Associated Press, Ifremer
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From the Smithsonian National Zoological Park
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