Yeti Crab, the Gardener of Bacteria

This crab has got a green thumb ... er, make that white , hairy claw.

Marine ecologist Andrew Thurber, who was studying a new species of yeti crab (named after the hair-like brisles on its claws) called Kiwa hirsuta discovered that the crustacean is also an avid gardener:

The bristles that cover the crab’s claws and body are coated in gardens of symbiotic bacteria, which derive energy from the inorganic gases of the seeps. The crab eats the bacteria, using comb-like mouthparts to harvest them from its bristles.

The bacteria in K. puravida gardens are closely related to species that live in other cold seeps and hot hydrothermal vents all over the world. “It looks like the bacteria may use the seeps as stepping stones, to create this global connected population that consumes the energy coming out of seeps and vents,” says Thurber.

Thurber thinks that K. puravida waves its claws to actively farm its bacterial gardens: movements stir up the water around the bacteria, ensuring that fresh supplies of oxygen and sulphide wash over them and helping them to grow. “This 'dance' is extraordinary and comical,” says Van Dover. “We've never seen this strategy before.”

Nature News has the story and the video clip: Link


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