The Cnidarian Solution to a Bad Hair Day

by Jennifer Frazer on September 8, 2010

Been one of those kinda weeks? Don’t feel like crawling out of your shell this morning to face the world? And, most importantly, are your antennae simply not cooperating with you today (it’s always like this on those high salinity days)? Then fear not! Biology to the rescue!

Does this make my shell look fat? It's only a matter of time until a rapper finds and appropriates this fashion statement. Image courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, INDEX-SATAL 2010.

Yes, you too can own a fabulous anemone toupée, should you be willing to scuttle about on soft corals hauling a huge-*** but apparently inviting shell on your back on the flanks of the Kawio Barat volcano in the Celebes Sea. Our friends aboard the NOAA Okeanos Explorer (whose video of the depths off Kona, Hawaii I covered here earlier this year) have been sailing the south seas in search of new life and new civilizations (OK, maybe just new life, unless James Cameron is on board). But what life it is! This photo is one of the fruits of their labor, but check out the slide show at National Geographic, or the slightly less user-friendly but more extensive slide shows a the Okeanos Explorer’s home page to see the rest. It’s Don’t Miss for those of us with biodiversity addictions.

The notes for this image state that the anemone is an “episymbiotic organism”, since the shell provides a home for two creatures (and once housed a third — a gastropod). Since anemone arms are ouch-y, if the crab ever finds itself in the bad section of Kawio Barat, all it has to do is hunker down and let its extensions do the work. Medusa, eat your heart out*.


* Also, perhaps not uncoincidentally, the generic name for a free-swimming jellyfish, which is itself an upside-down anemone.

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September 12, 2010 at 10:09 pm

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

kati September 8, 2010 at 5:45 pm

so is this little guy just lucky or did they find more than one of these crab/anemone pairs?

Jennifer Frazer September 9, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Since they say the anemone is an “episymbiont” and not some freak of nature, I’d guess this is not the only one! But really, who wouldn’t consider themselves lucky to be sporting such a fine (and high-security) chapeau . . . : )

Jeremy September 12, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Is it me or does it look like Beaker?

Jennifer Frazer September 16, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Indeed, it does look like Beaker! Excellent observation.

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