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Species Profile – Squat Lobster

November 14, 2010
Squat Lobster stare

Squat Lobster stare: Photo by Mike Dunn

We have had another change in plans due to weather, so have a little time to work on putting together information on some of the really amazing creatures we have seen and sampled during the ROV dives so far. Our first installment is on Squat Lobsters (you gotta love that name).

There are three families of decapod crustaceans (10 legs) that are called Squat Lobsters, all of which can be abundant members of the deep coral community. Squat lobsters are found worldwide in the oceans, often at great depths. There are currently over 870 described species with new ones being discovered as deep-water exploration continues. Squat Lobsters are not actually lobsters, but are more closely related to hermit crabs. They are named for their habit of tucking their abdomen up under their body and looking as though they are moving about in a permanent squat position. Like their namesake non-relative lobsters, Squat Lobsters move around their world backwards when alarmed, perhaps the better to defend themselves if being chased.

A tangle of legs

A tangle of legs: Photo by Art Howard

Yesterday’s ROV dive showed large numbers of Galatheidae, one of the three Squat Lobster families, scattered across the sandy sediments. (One reference I found said this could be called a “consortium” of crabs.) We were fascinated by their incredibly long pincer arms, which gave them a very gangly appearance. If blue crabs are the linebackers of the crab world, then Galatheidae are the NBA centers. They use their one pair of huge claw-tipped arms to snag fish and other prey and to jostle with their fellow Galatheids for food, territory, or whatever else occupies a crabs’ day at 360 meters below the ocean’s surface.

Before returning to the ship, the ROV collected a few Galatheid specimens to bring on board. The specimens brought up are used for a variety of purposes, from genetic analyses to trophic level studies (who eats who?). The specimens also serve as records of what species are associated with which habitats. Every collection is important when you are working in an area where so little data exists.

For scientific purposes and for their sheer beauty, the Squat Lobsters proved to be a favorite subject of our photography crew. I’m sure you can see why.

Squat Lobster gaze

Squat Lobster gaze: Photo by Art Howard


Armor: Photo by Mike Dunn

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Liz B permalink
    November 15, 2010 1:28 am

    Terrific description of one of my favorite critters out there! The photos are amazing! I guess Dr. Nizinski might need some of these for her office walls! Sorry to hear the weather has changed some of your plans, but that is life at sea.
    Have you seen many echinoderms on the dives?

    • ncmuseummike permalink
      November 15, 2010 2:33 am

      We have seen and collected some. We will be featuring them in the next Species Profile.

  2. Diane Carr permalink
    November 15, 2010 4:03 pm

    Can you tell me what camera and lens combination you are using for the close up pictures. They are really amazing. Diane Carr

    • ncmuseummike permalink
      November 15, 2010 4:23 pm

      Between Art, Peyton, and I, we have quite an arsenal of camera equipment on board: camera bodies include a Canon 5DMarkII, 5D, and 7D. We are using two primary lenses for the macro shots – a 100mm macro and for the super closeups, a Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x Macro Lens. That lens requires a lot of light, but gives you a new look at the world!

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