|Image: Tin-Yam Chan|
Squat Lobsters do indeed look quite a lot like lobsters, albeit small, spindly ones. Your typical lobster is a large beefcake of a crustacean, with thick armour and massive claws...
|Image: Lin, C.-W.|
How do you even cup of tea with those things?
It looks pretty awkward, not to mention creepy, but it seems to work well for them.
|Image: Tin-Yam Chan|
In the interest of balance, here's a much less spindly Squat Lobster. They got choices!
Squat Lobsters can also be found in colder waters, right up to the chill of Norway and Canada.
|Image: Moorea Biocode|
Galathea pilosa is absurdly colourful. What a clown!
And then, of course, there are those famous Yeti Crabs that live near to hydrothermal vents. You might think nothing can be more opposite to paradise than life next to a chimney of boiling hot, poisonous fumes surrounded by freezing cold darkness, but Yeti Crabs appear to live lives of quiet abundance down there. That's partly because no-one else wants to have anything to do with that place.
Always remember: one way to become king of your domain is to find a really horrible domain.
|Image: James Lynott|
Long-clawed Squat Lobster (Munida rugosa) somehow manages to glare at us with its claws
|Image: Shane Anderson|
A pelagic Squat Lobster
Other Squat Lobsters can swim at least a little bit when they need to, but they prefer to keep their fan-tails curled up under their body. That's part of why they look so squat!
Video: Andy Pepper
Like a lot of crustaceans, Squat Lobsters are not fussy eaters. Most will happily munch on any carrion or detritus they come across, as well as snap up whatever fish or other creatures they can catch in those gruesome pincers.
Some like to scrape their dinner off stones and the like.
Video: Eunjae In
Other adorable little darlings prefer to raise their claws and snatch at bits and bobs as they drift their way.
One exceedingly strange species feeds on wood. Wood! Wood that sank all the way down to the deep sea! I mean... those creatures that feed on nothing but sunken whale corpses are bad enough. Imagine having to wait around for trees in the deep sea! A tenuous existence, indeed.
So, after all that... what actually ARE Squat Lobsters, actually.
What a beautiful home!
However, if you look at Squat Lobsters you'll see that they don't appear to have ten legs. They appear to have a mere six walking legs and two claws, adding up to eight. What gives?
This is a common condition among a group of decapods known as Anomura. It includes coconut crabs, hermit crabs, porcelain crabs and several others. None of these so-called crabs are "true crabs" because... they all appear to have only six walking legs. But if you look very closely, you would see that they do in fact have another pair of legs, it's just that they're extremely small and kept hidden away under their armour.
Video: showbrd's channel
Squat Lobsters use these miniature legs to keep themselves well groomed. It's particularly important that they keep those gills clean.
But Squat Lobsters throw one more spanner in the works.
For a long time, Squat Lobsters were treated as a single, large group of crustaceans. However, it turns out this is wrong. We already know that there are true crabs and then there are things like hermit crabs which look like crabs, but aren't really. Well, through careful physical examination and DNA analysis, it's now known that Squat Lobsters are in a similar situation. Not everything that looks like Squat Lobster is closely related.
I wonder which one contains the "true Squat Lobsters"? Some day we'll have to say that such and such Squat Lobster isn't really a true lobster and isn't really a true Squat Lobster, either. Can't wait!