Facehuggers on the Reef

Last weekend I went to the fish store and came home with a pair of little porcelain crabs (Neopetrolisthes maculata). Sometimes called “squat lobsters” due to their elongated chelipeds (aka “the legs with the claws or pincers on them”), porcelain crabs are not true crabs – instead, they’re closely related to hermits and other “false crabs.”

Porcelain crabs are filter feeders. They hide in corals or anemones and feed using a pair of modified legs with feather-like feeding attachments that the crabs use to scoop miniscule particles out of the water.

The crabs aren’t difficult to photograph (though they are small…their bodies measure just over half an inch in diameter) but photos don’t capture the feeding motion accurately or well.

In light of that, and because the feeding motion is so unusual, check out this 45 second video of Face the Porcelain Crab enjoying his dinner:

The other crab (not shown in the video) is “Hugger.” Pay attention to the shape of the legs, and they way they grab the coral, and the reason why should be more or less self-evident.