There has been a discovery of a warm-water species in one of the coldest places in the world, Antarctica. The yeti crab, a marine creature that lives near the thermal vents in the ocean floor where hot water gushes into the sea.
There are three known species of yeti crabs, and now, in a new study, scientists have described the characteristics of one of these species —Kiwa tyleri. K. tyleri is the only species of yeti crab known to reside in the Southern Ocean, off Antarctica.
Hundreds and Thousands of these blind and bristly critters have been discovered in warm hydrothermal vents in Antarctica, by researchers from the University of Southampton in England.
The Kiwa tyleri, is only the third known species of yeti crab.
Other species of the yeti crab Kiwa hirsute, was first discovered in a hydrothermal vent in the southern Pacific Ocean in 2005 and Kiwa puravida was discovered living in a cold seep off the coast of Costa Rica in 2006.
The discovery of this new species is surprising as the Southern Ocean was thought to be uninhabitable for such crustaceans due to polar temperatures.
“Crabs and lobsters are very rare in Antarctic/Southern Ocean waters because of the unusually low seawater temperatures,” Sven Thatje, lead author of the report and associate professor of marine evolutionary ecology at the University of Southampton told Live Science.
They are able to survive the cold temperature is because the hydrothermal vents offer an oasis of warmth for these critters. These vents make such habitable environments that researchers found 700 individuals per square meter, making them the dominant species at these sites.
One of the most isolated environments on Earth; Antarctica’s hydrothermal vents are surrounded by water temperatures that hover around or below freezing. Still some females do leave the warmth of the vents to brood eggs away from the sulfur-rich emissions of the vent, Professor Thatje told Live Science.
The Antarctic variety, like other yeti crabs, hosts bacteria in its bristle fur. Unlike its relatives however, that fur covers extends over the chest, leading some researchers to nickname the newly discovered species the “Hoff crab” after the notoriously hairy-chested actor of “Baywatch” fame David Hasselhoff, according to Live Science.