First species of Yeti crab found in Antarctica

London, June 25 (IANS) The first species of Yeti crab from hydrothermal vent systems in Antarctica, has been discovered by a team of British scientists.

Named after world-renowned British deep-sea and polar biologist professor Paul Tyler, the species Kiwa Tyleri belongs to an enigmatic group of squat lobsters known as Kiwaidae.

The species occurring at extremely high densities exceeds 700 specimens per square metre.

“The Antarctic Yeti crab is trapped in its warm-water hydrothermal vent site by the cold polar waters of the surrounding deep-sea. The species has adapted to this very limited sized habitat – of a few cubic metres in volume – by living in highly-packed densities and by relying on bacteria they grow on their fur-like setae for nutrition,” said lead author Sven Thatje from the University of Southampton.

Yeti crab is famous for its body, which is densely covered by bristles – known as setae – and bacteria, giving it a fur-like appearance.

Kiwa Tyleri’s appearance allows it to harvest the dense bacterial mats, which overgrow the surfaces of vent chimneys, on which it depends for food from the chemosynthetic bacteria.

For most of its life, Kiwa Tyleri is trapped within the warm water environment of the vent chimney. The species is unable to move between vent sites because of the hostile, low temperature (about zero degrees Celsius), polar environment in between.

Crabs and lobsters, which are a characteristic of the global oceans, show an extremely low species number in polar seas. Hydrothermal vent systems found in the Southern Ocean, therefore, present a unique warm-water refuge to Yeti crabs.

The study was published in the journal Plos One.

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