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Friday 9 December 2016

Crab named after deep-sea biologist

Published 24/06/2015 | 19:11

The species Kiwa tyleri is named after world-renowned British deep-sea and polar biologist Professor Paul Tyler from the University of Southampton
The species Kiwa tyleri is named after world-renowned British deep-sea and polar biologist Professor Paul Tyler from the University of Southampton

The first species of yeti crab from the hydrothermal vent systems of Antarctica has been named after a British deep-sea biologist.

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The species Kiwa tyleri, found in the East Scotia Ridge of the Southern Ocean, is named after world-renowned British deep-sea and polar biologist Professor Paul Tyler from the University of Southampton.

Kiwa tyleri belongs to a group of squat lobsters known as Kiwaidae, that thrive in the hot waters surrounding the geothermally heated hydrothermal vents and is the dominant species with more than 700 per square yard.

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

Its 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 (up to about 25 degrees Celsius or 77F) and is unable to move between vent sites because of the hostile, low temperature (about zero degrees Celsius or 32F), polar environment in between.

Females carrying eggs only move away from vent chimneys, and into the surrounding polar deep-sea, in order to release their larvae; these would otherwise not survive the warmer temperatures of the adult habitat.

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 for yeti crabs.

Dr Sven Thatje, from the University of Southampton and lead author of a paper describing the crab published in the journal PLOS ONE, said: "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 cubique metres in volume - by living in highly-packed densities and by relying on bacteria they grow on their fur-like setae for nutrition."

Press Association

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