Wednesday 29 August 2012

Slipper Lobster

Image: Wikimedia
It's neither a slipper nor a true lobster, but it is a TANK!

Slipper Lobsters are members of the Scyllaridae family, found in warm oceans across the world from the surface all the way down to depths of about 500 metres (1,600 ft).

They are related to Spiny Lobsters, which aren't true lobsters either. The problem is they don't have claws! Lobsters are really proud of their claws and without them, a so-called lobster simply isn't really a lobster.

Image: hjk_888 via Flickr
Some of them are actually quite cute!
With those famous nippy pincers replaced by yet another pair of legs, you might think the Slipper Lobster is in a bit of trouble. What to do about all those predators if they can't nip their toes? Slippers range between a few centimetres (an inch or two) to 50 cm (20 inches) long, so they sound like a tasty snack or a wholesome meal to near enough anything partial to seafood.

Slipper Lobsters have a whole host of coping mechanisms, often aided by their body being flattened like a fancy, modern tank. Some may be nocturnal, hiding in caves and niches while predators are most active...

Image: Ken-ichi via Flickr
They may use camouflage to hide out in plain view or bury themselves in sand. When things get really bad they can simply cling to rocks with their powerful legs, a bit like some beetles. And then there's the fact that they're built like a brick chitin-house!

Slipper Lobsters have a remarkably thick carapace that only the most powerful of jaws can crunch through.

Image: Philippe Guillaume via Flickr
I've always found Slippers extremely weird looking, like an alien head that grew legs and started crawling around the place. It seems to me that their shell is so thick they basically have eye sockets and end up looking like ancient reptiles.

Like any crustacean, they also have 2 pairs of antennae. One pair are extremely long, flexible and sensitive, held up to sense their surroundings. The other pair is less obvious, or at least they were for me...

Image: Philippe Guillaume via Flickr
It turns out those two massive, flattened plates sticking out of their face are actually antennae! I had no idea! They help the Slipper Lobster dig into sand and perhaps also sniff out buried worms and molluscs that make up their diet. Those same legs that let them cling to the ground with such tenacity are also used to pry open bivalve shells.

Image: Joachim S. Mueller via Flickr
Now that Godzilla is so old they turned him into a bog-standard dinosaur (and a robot?), I think a giant Slipper Lobster is the natural disaster movie of the future. Lumbering around, ploughing through roads and concrete, felling skyscrapers... all the while those antennae twitch in the breeze as bombs and bullets bounce helplessly off its carapace.

With ideas like that, I should be a billionaire by now! But those ancient reptiles in Hollywood wouldn't like that, would they...


TexWisGirl said...

some serious antennae! and a cute shell face. :)

FaustXIII said...

i'd put a cannon on top of this guy

Joseph JG said...

@TexWisGirl: I know! I had no idea they could look so cute, too.

@FaustXIII: Definitely! A whole other kind of biological warfare!

Crunchy said...

There's a lobster tank down at the grocery store. :)

You'd think that an animal that relies so heavily on camo wouldn't want such brilliantly colored antennae.

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

That's incredible! I've been pestering the slipper lobsters at the zoo with my camera for years and never knew that their flattened claw-like bits were actually antennae! (I blame the zoo's information placards, mainly--of course--but still, I do feel some shame...) Thanks for the great photos and information!

Joseph JG said...

@Crunchy: I think the they'd be using every skill they have to stay in that tank! And yeh, they have some really bright and shiny antennae, I guess they like to have a little flourish.

@Olivia V. Ambrogio: I was stunned! Such a thing had never occurred to me, they certainly look much more like strange claws.

Oh, and you're very welcome!

Anonymous said...

I misread the title and thought it was called the "snipper lobster" because the frontal shell and "antennae" form something very similar to scissors.

Joseph JG said...

Ooooo... you're right, but a great, big pair of scissors would be scary. Great for the monster movie, though!

Crunchy said...

Two fish were swimming around in a tank.

The first fish says to the other, "Hey, do you know how to drive this thing?"

The second fish says, "Holy crap, a talking fish!"

Joseph JG said...

Haha! I quite like that! It's like one of those stuffed crust pizzas with extra cheese all around the edge.

I guess the more elderly version is:

I see said the blind man,
the crack in the wall.
You lie said the deaf man,
You can't see at all.