It has been discovered that Pom-pom crabs of the Indo-Pacific have a somewhat special kind of relationship with a type of sea anemone.
These small crabs are called Pom-Pom or Lybia crabs. They adorn themselves with a species of sea anemones on each of their claws. Unlike most crabs they have relatively small claws which enhances their ability to easily hold anemones. It is believed that these colorful and stinging anemones are used to fend off predators.
What makes this story more odd is the fact that these anemones are not found anywhere else except on these crabs. Additionally it was found that these crabs share their anemones with other crabs that, for what ever reason, have none. In cases where they encounter a crab that has none they donate one of theirs to the other crab after which both crabs split their anemones in half to result in two cloned anemones, one for each of its claws.
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“Extraordinary Adventure of Life”
Schnytzer and his colleagues have many more questions about this strange relationship. For instance, it is still unclear how, where, and when the crabs obtain their anemones.
For instance, the crabs collected in the Red Sea carried a particular species of anemone from the genus Alicia; remarkably, despite years of searching, the team was unable to find any of these anemones living freely and not in the grasp of a crab. (See more pictures of colorful sea creatures.)
“Presumably, although splitting and theft occur in nature, they do not represent the full picture of how these crabs acquire their anemones,” says Schnytzer.
The study raises also questions about how the anemone-crab relationship evolved, says Daniѐle Guinot, a crab expert at the Museum of Natural History in Paris, France.
In this relationship, holding anemones seems to be necessary for the crabs, says Guinot, who was not involved in the research.
Read more about this amazing crab-anemone relationship here on nationalgeographic.com
Images source: nationalgeographic.com