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Origins of ‘The Hoff’ crab revealed

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Posted June 19, 2013
Studio close-up of a 'Hoff' Yeti crab from vents in the Indian Ocean. A team led by Oxford University scientists has revealed the history of the Yeti crabs for the first time. Credit: David Shale

Studio close-up of a ‘Hoff’ Yeti crab from vents in the Indian Ocean. A team led by Oxford University scientists has revealed the history of the Yeti crabs for the first time. Credit: David Shale

The history of a new type of crab, nicknamed ‘The Hoff’ because of its hairy chest, which lives around hydrothermal vents deep beneath the Southern Ocean and Indian Ocean, has been revealed for the first time.

A team led by Oxford University scientists has found that, far from being ‘relics’ marooned in their deep sea habitat Yeti crabs (Kiwaidae) are, in evolutionary terms, relative newcomers that diversified 40 million years ago. A report of this first genetic study into the evolution of Yeti crabs is published in this week’s Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The ‘Hoff’ crabs, which have yet to be scientifically described and are probably two separate species, split off from their hairy-clawed Yeti cousins and spread eastwards over undersea ridges from the Pacific, through the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica, to reach vents in the Southern and Indian Oceans.

Hoff crabs live in one of the most extreme environments on the planet; over 2000 metres under the sea where volcanic vents superheat the water to c.380 degrees Celsius and belch out noxious chemicals, and there is no light and very little oxygen. They feed by effectively ‘farming’ bacteria on their hairy chests, then using special comb-like mouthparts to ‘strain off’ the bacteria so that they can eat them.

Read more at: Phys.org

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