Lamarckdromia beagle: Kiwi scientist declares 'fluffy' crab discovered in Western Australia a new species

New species of "fluffy" crab discovered off the coast of Western Australia
New species of "fluffy" crab discovered off the coast of Western Australia Photo credit: Twitter

A new species of "fluffy" crab has been discovered off the coast of Western Australia.

A family found the new Lamarckdromia beagle species washed up in Denmark, south of Perth, and sent it to the Western Australia Museum, so they could identify what it was.

Curator of crustacea and worms at the WA Museum Dr Andrew Hosie and Canterbury University marine biologist Colin McLay identified the specimen as a Dromiidae crab or (sponge crab) which uses sea sponges and ascidians for protection.

"The sponge or ascidian just keeps growing and will mould to the shape of the crab’s back," Hosie said.

Hosie said sponge crabs had adapted their hind legs to hold onto the sponge or ascidian, which is worn like a protective hat.

"It will never attach… it forms a nice cap that fits quite snugly to the top of the crab."

Sponge crabs use sea sponges like a hermit crab uses a shell for protection, helping them camouflage from predators.

Hosie said he was unsure why this particular crab was so fluffy.

"The sponge or the ascidian that these things carry should offer it all the camouflage it needs."

The species Lamarckdromia beagle was named after Charles Darwin's ship the HMS Beagle, the vessel which led to his theory of natural selection between 1831 and 1836.