While on a night dive in the Caribbean, underwater photographer Ellen Muller took a photo of a “flaming reef lobster”. But when she got back from her dive and took a closer look at her photos, she discovered a hermit crab lurking in the background of one of the photos.
It turned out that the brightly coloured hermit crab was a species new to science. Due to the fact that its legs resembled candy cane, it was named “candy striped hermit crab”. For its scientific name, Muller named it Pylopaguropsis mollymullerae, after her granddaughter Molly Muller, in order to inspire the girl to “continue the tradition of protecting the amazing and fragile diversity of marine life in Bonaire”.
The crab is extremely new to science, and hence a number of questions have already surfaced about it. For instance, its right pincer is exceptional large compared to its body. The underside of the pincer's claw is deeply excavated, resembling a scoop. The function of the pincer and claw is currently unknown.
In addition, these hermit crabs tend to be found in crevices in underwater dens with lobsters and moray eels. In at least one instance, a candy striped hermit crab was seen crawling on the body of a broadbanded moray, perhaps feeding on the mucus or other substances on its body. Could this be an indication of a symbiotic association between the two species? Or was the hermit crab fulfilling a role as a “cleaner”, removing parasites or food particles from the bodies of the lobsters and moray eels. If so, this would be the first documentation of a hermit crab engaging in such a role.
However, more evidence would be needed before either possibility can be confirmed. Indeed, these hermit crabs would need to be further studied so that more details can be uncovered about them.
Video (in article of Newscientist): www.newscientist.com/..new-hermit-crab