A species of the featured creature is spotted here on a dive. Photo courtesy of: NOAA Office of Exploration and Research.
Welcome to Week 2 of Wildlife of the Week! We’ve decided to highlight an animal that lives deep under the waves of the Salish Sea. There is a general name for this animal that includes multiple species. Does anyone know this creature from the photo above? Here are a few clues if you need a hint:
(i) It is not a lobster, contrary to its name.
(ii) Its claws may be twice as long as its body
….if you guessed Squat lobster, you would be correct! A common species seen in B.C. is called Munida quadraspina.
The Squat lobster is a small crustacean that is an important member of marine communities, with many species found in the deep-sea. They can measure from less than 1 cm to a maximum of 9 cm long.
They are related to other crustaceans like shrimp and hermit crabs.
Squat lobsters are often spotted dwelling in enclosed spaces. You might spot one between rocks and boulders, as they hide from fish predators. They may also use their claws to guard their space…however they can swim and walk around on surfaces.
They may also be spotted sitting atop varieties of corals, sponges and other marine structures.
This tiny creature is commonly known to feed on small plankton, shrimp and organic matter, usually scavenging or sorting through sand. However, some have been seen hunting live fish on reefs!
These creatures are bright in shades of orange and red.
Regarding Munida quadraspina, they can be found from Alaska to California between depths of 12-1400m.
Now, time for trivia! See if you can answer all the questions below:
- True or False? The Squat lobster has a shell. (Ans: FALSE)
- True or false? Some Squat lobsters have been seen to steal food off of anemones. (Ans: TRUE)
- What are the claws of a Squat lobster called? (Ans: CHELIPEDS)
The squat lobster has what is called a “tail fan”. This is extremely important to the animal for a major reason…do you know what it is?
Answer: It is used as an escape mechanism and allows the creature to swim backwards.
Author: Alexa D./ Five Star Whale Watching
Would you like to learn more about this interesting underwater crustacean? Check out our References to learn more!
Baldwin, Aaron. “Infraorder Anomura (Mole crabs, Hermit crabs, King crabs, Porcelain crabs, and Squat lobsters) of British Columbia.” Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [www.efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [13 June, 2020].
Cowles, Dave. “Munida quadraspina Benedict 1902. 2005.” Invertebrates of the Salish Sea. Walla Walla University. https://inverts.wallawalla.edu/Arthropoda/Crustacea/Malacostraca/Eumalacostraca/Eucarida/Decapoda/Anomura/Family_Galatheidae/Munida_quadrispina.html
“Squat lobster.” Monterey Bay Aquarium. 2020. https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/animals-a-to-z/squat-lobster
“Are squat lobsters really lobsters?” Ocean Exploration and Research. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/facts/squat-lobsters.html