The fantastically named yeti crab farms disgusting bacteria on its arms

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Deep off the coasts of Costa Rica, this recently discovered species of yeti crab (Kiwa puravida) harvests their dinner over hydrothermal vents. But how?

These nine-centimeter-long bottom dwellers — which are named such for their spindly arm bristles — cultivate gardens of nourishing bacteria by waving their claws over chemical vents and seeps.

Researchers believe that the yeti crabs' undersea dance sweeps up delicious oxygen and sulphide to the bacterial colonies growing on their bristles. And when it's time to eat, the crabs "comb" the bacteria off of their arm using an apparatus on their mouth (as seen at right).


K. puravida joins two other hydrothermal denizens — a species of crab (Shinkaia crosnieri) and shrimp (Rimicaris exoculata) — among those crustaceans who dine on the bacteria that grow on their bodies. If only we could all be so lucky.

[Nature via Ed Yong]