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Scientists have discovered a unique new species of hermit crab that measures merely 70 millimetres in length and sports a colouration of mottled orange nuanced with cream to white. The newly discovered crustacean is called Paragiopagurus atkinsonae or the ‘Green-eyed hermit crab’.
Among its distinct traits is the significant sexual diorphism, where the males grow much larger right chelipeds in comparison to females.
Much like other hermit crabs in its family, the little crustacean does not use the shells of other molluscs to shelter its vulnerable body, but rather finds a home in the soft, polypy masses built from sand and material created by sea anemones which go on to live on the backs of these crabs in an amazing symbiosis. “So, when you hold it, it is just organic material glued together with some sand,” said Jannes Landschoff, PhD student at University of Cape Town in South Africa.
The new species was discovered during a three-week survey back in 2013, conducted by the Department of Forestry and Fisheries and the South African Environmental Observation Network in the shallower deep waters (199 metres to 277 metres) off the West Coast of South Africa.
Researchers were on board one of the vessels when an unusual green-eyed crab turned up among the numerous specimens collected in one of the trawls. The findings were published in the journal ZooKeys.