Deep sea creatures have to get resourceful to survive and a relatively new species of yeti crab was discovered farming colonies of bacteria on its claws to use as food. In the Pacific Ocean at over a thousand below the surface, the crab was discovered waving its pincers over methane and sulfide vents but not to catch bacteria for food, instead using the gasses as fertilizer to grow bacteria.
According to the article by biologists from Oregon State University in the journal PLoS One, the crab called Kiwa puravida, is relatively new on the scientific scene after being discovered in 2006. The first yeti crabs were discovered in 2005 with this specific species found the following year.
“We watched the crabs wave their claws back and forth in fluid from a methane seep, and rather than trying to capture bacteria, it appeared that they were providing food to the bacteria already growing on their claws,” said lead author of the study, Andrew Thurber, in the press release announcing the news.
Without any light reaching that far down, animals like the yeti crab have to be resourceful and using chemical energy to help grow the bacteria used by deep sea crabs, shrimp and barnacles.
“But we hadn’t before seen that kind of ‘farming’ behavior in which the host waves its symbionts in seep fluid,” adds Thurber. “We don’t know for certain whether hydrogen sulfide alone fuels [the bacteria], but we suspect it may use both hydrogen sulfide and methane released from the seafloor to exist so far from the sun.”
The crabs also have a specially adapted appendage to scrape the bacteria off their bodies and bring it to their mouths.
Check out the crabs in action below:
[Image via OSU on Flickr]