Hairs serve many purposes in the animal kingdom but precisely what one crab is doing with a frankly outrageous degree of fluff has got scientists a little stumped. The new-to-science species of sponge crab was found off the south coast of Western Australia and as if its voluminous floof weren’t enough texture, it also sports a little protective hat made of living sea sponge.
The hairy crustacean has been named in honor of the HMS Beagle upon which Charles Darwin sailed while conducting his research. Australia is home to many species of sponge crab but this one’s title was inspired by the ship which sailed to Albany in 1836, which is one of the few places where Lamarckdromia beagle is found.
Sponge crabs have fine hairs attached to their exoskeletons which are hooked at the end and come in handy for attaching things such as a sea sponge fascinator. And it seems with its covetable mane L. beagle has no problem affixing living sponges to its beagle-colored body.
"They have an unusual behaviour of carrying around a piece of living sponge," said Western Australian Museum curator of crustacea and worms Dr Andrew Hosie to ABC.
"The crabs trim the sponge to shape, let it grow to shape of their body and use them as a hat or protective blanket keep them protected from predators such as octopus and fish."
The unusual approach to camouflage is one that’s widely practiced among the dromiidae – the family of crabs known as sponge crabs which are a close relative of hermit crabs, another of the oceans’ most resourceful crustaceans.
As for what’s going on with all that fluff? Well, we’re not quite sure.
"All members of this group of crabs are hairy to some extent, but this one is ridiculous,” continued Hosie. "We can't really give a definitive answer as to why… we suspect it's to help further camouflage its legs from predators."
Camouflage, but make it fashion.