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Kiwa Puravida, 'Yeti Crab,' Grows Food On Its Arms (VIDEO)

First Posted: 12/07/11 01:59 PM ET Updated: 12/07/11 02:32 PM ET

A recently discovered species of crab is one of the weirdest farmers you will ever meet. Kiwa puravida, a species of "Yeti crab," lives near undersea methane vents and cultivates bacteria on its hairy arms and then eats it.

Andrew Thurber, a marine ecologist with Oregon State University, first discovered the crabs near Costa Rica in 2006. He and his colleagues' research appeared recently in the journal PLoS One, in an article entitled "Dancing for Food in the Deep Sea: Bacterial Farming by a New Species of Yeti Crab."

Nature reports that Thurber initially set out to research undersea methane and hydrogen sulfide seeps, and encountered the crabs waving their claws over the vents. The Yeti crabs, named for their unusual white arm covering, have claws that are covered in a bacteria that "derive energy from the inorganic gases of the seeps." The crabs then use their "comb-like mouthparts" to eat the bacteria from their claws.

Thurber said in a press release, "We watched the crabs wave their claws back and forth in fluid from a methane seep, and rather than trying to capture bacteria, it appeared that they were providing food to the bacteria already growing on their claws." He added, "There isn't sufficient food that deep that is derived from the sun's energy, so vent and seep animals harness chemical energy released from the seafloor."

Scientific American reports Kiwa puravida is the second named species of Yeti crab after Kiwa hirsuta, which was discovered in 2005 near Easter Island.

Below, check out a video of the Yeti crabs in action. Click here to check out other strange animals that you might not believe are real.

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Filed by James Gerken  |