Thursday, June 23, 2011

Squat lobster

Squat lobsters are decapod crustaceans of the families Galatheidae, Chirostylidae and Kiwaidae, including the common genera Galathea and Munida. They are not lobsters at all, but are more closely related to porcelain crabs, hermit crabs and then, more distantly, true crabs. They are distributed worldwide in the oceans, and occur from near the surface to deep sea hydrothermal vents. There are currently 870 described species.

Squat lobsters are much smaller than commercially-harvested true lobsters. For example, Munida rugosa has a maximum body length of 4 in with abdomen extended, and the striated squat lobster Galathea australiensis has a carapace that reaches 6 in in length.

The body of a squat lobster is usually flattened, the abdomen is typically folded under itself, and the first pereiopods (front legs) are greatly elongated and armed with long chelae (claws). The fifth pair of pereiopods is usually hidden within the gill chamber, under the carapace, giving squat lobsters the appearance of having only eight pereiopods.

It was long assumed that squat lobsters hide in crevices and catch prey with their long claws. However, recent observations showed the animals to wait on the tops of Lophelia coral reefs and catch fish swimming past.

Flesh from these animals is often commercially sold in restaurants as "langostino lobster," or sometimes called merely "lobster" when incorporated in seafood dishes.

Munidopsis andamanica is a deep sea species that is specialized to feed only on sunken wood, including trees washed out to sea and timber from ship wrecks.

Fossil squat lobsters have been found in strata dating back to the Middle Jurassic of Europe.

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