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Bizarre crustaceans make a big splash in the scientific world

Recently, some bizarre crustaceans have made a big splash in the scientific world. They're blind. They live in extreme deep-sea environments. They've all been discovered since 2005. And they're so hairy that they've quickly become known as "yeti crabs," after the mythical snow monster of the Himalayas. Check out three particularly cool yeti crab species, all in the newly christened genus kiwaidae.

  • Illustration of kiwa hirsuta

    Kiwa hirsuta

    Discovered: 2005
    Location: Pacific-Antartic ridge (south of Easter Island)
    Ocean depth: 7,200 feet
    Habitat: Hydrothermal vents where mineral-rich water heated by lava enters the ocean
    Size: Specimen collected was 6 inches
    Unique features: The hairs on Kiwa hirsuta's arms are actually soft spines called setae; all three species grow dense "gardens" of bacteria on those hairs. Scientists have hypothesized that the crabs cultivate and eat the bacteria.

  • Illustration of kiwa puravida

    Kiwa puravida

    Discovered: 2006
    Location: Off the coast of Costa Rica
    Ocean depth: 3,281 - 3,412 feet
    Habitat: Cold seep (place on ocean floor that leaks hydrocarbon-rich fluid)
    Size: 3.5 inches
    Unique features: Kiwa puravida possesses an appendage that looks like a tiny comb; scientists have observed it using the comb like a weird built-in fork, to scrape bacteria from its hairs and eat them.

  • Illustration of kiwa tyleri

    Kiwa tyleri, the "Hoff crab"

    Discovered: 2010
    Location: Around east Scotia ridge, off the coast of Antartica
    Ocean depth: More than 8,500 feet
    Habitat: Small zone between surreally hot hydrothermal vents and frigid Antartic waters
    Size: 0.19 inches - 5.9 inches
    Unique features: Named after actor David Hasselhoff due to its hairy chest and appendages, the Hoff crab is more compact than Kiwa hirsta or Kiwa puravida.

Illustrations by © Kel Zuki / WWF-US

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World Wildlife magazine provides an inspiring, in-depth look at the connections between animals, people and our planet. Published quarterly by WWF, the magazine helps make you a part of our efforts to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the natural world.

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