Thursday, 20 June 2013

How the Hairy-Chested 'Hoff' Crab Evolved

Yeti crabs don't comb their hair to look good — they do it because they're hungry.

These bizarre deep-sea animals grow their food in their own hair, trapping bacteria and letting it flourish there before "combing" it out and slurping it up. The crabs are found near cold seeps and hydrothermal vents, places where mineral-rich water spews out of the seafloor.

Like many animals that live in these extreme environments, yeti crabs have been thought of as "living fossils," largely isolated from the rest of world and, therefore, unchanged for eons. But new research shows these animals actually evolved relatively recently, suggesting the deep-sea environments the crabs call home may be more changeable than previously thought and more vulnerable to shifts in the atmosphere and climate, said Oxford University researcher Nicolai Roterman. 

A study by Roterman and his colleagues detailing the evolutionary history of these bizarre creatures was published today (June 18) in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, and their research turned up a few surprises.

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