After many pictures, theories and queries have circulated the internet, scientists have finally declared a new crab species found off the coast of Western Australia. Usually identified as sponge crabs, these new species have scientifically been named "Lamarckdromia beagle." While established sponge crabs are typically seen at night and hide in holes during the day, the new species shocked scientists, raising many questions as to why and how this fuzzy creature came about...
The name given to the newly identified creature dates back to 1831-1836, when British naturalist Charles Darwin set off on a global voyage boarding the Royal Navy ship the HMS Beagle, mapping out his theories of natural selection. After a 5-year journey terminating in Albany in 1836, Darwin discovered a range of species "that favor survival and reproduction... causing an increase in frequency over generations." As a commemoration of Darwin's 1959 establishments, L. beagle is named after the HMS Beagle, currently the only found between Albany and Cape Naturalist, while sponge crabs are found across the Australian coast.
Australian curator of the Western Australia Museum, Dr. Andrew Hosie, first discovered the fluffy species after a family had sent him an image. What began as a casual walk along the coast quickly became a fascinating finding. The "extreme fluffiness" was a massive giveaway to differentiate the new crab from the previously established sponge crab. Where sponge crabs are known to be hairy and have a velvety feel to them, Lamarckdromia beagles are completely camouflaged by a "shaggy coat." Dr. Andrew's findings showed the crab to have unusual behavior, carrying around a thick coat of growing fuzz, releasing "toxic compounds" to protect them from surrounding predators. Additionally, their unique back legs hold the collected protection above their heads. Dr. Andrew quickly contacted former marine biologist Colin McLay, who has been "studying sponge crabs for decades." McLay confirmed this was an unknown species. After further investigation, an additional four L. beagle-type species in coastal areas were identified between 1925 and 1983 but were never established as new creatures of natural selection.
There are more than 40 species of Dromiidae known from Australia of which about 40% are endemic. Dr Andrew Hosie, WA Museum Curator of Crustacea & Worms, Dept. of Aquatic Zoology helped describe the new species found in Albany with Colin McLay🦀 https://t.co/CLF9FVdV5q— WA Museum Boola Bardip (@wamuseum) June 15, 2022
Responses to the creature online have varied from horrified to humored. But what's important to know is that these crabs are not threatening to human life. There aren't definite answers as to why the crabs have excessive fuzz, but the discovery has been a special moment for scientists, revisiting Darwin's natural selection theory and knowing there is more to discover. Stay tuned while this story develops.