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November 29, 2013


A trio of rare sponge crabs has gone on display at Newquay’s Blue Reef Aquarium.

The bizarre-looking crustaceans were originally hauled up in the pots of Port Isaac fisherman John Brown and are now making themselves at home in the aquarium’s estuary display.

The crabs get their name from the fact they hold living sponges – which they also cut to fit – on top of their shells as a way of camouflaging themselves from would-be predators.

Sponge crabs are more commonly seen off the West coast of Africa or in the Mediterranean but in recent years their numbers have been increasing in British waters and the arrival of the juvenile would suggest they may be permanent residents around our coasts.

Blue Reef’s Jenni Smith said: “The crabs had been on display in an aquarium within the old fish cellars at Port Isaac which is used to house unusual creatures caught by the local fishermen.

“We’re very grateful to John and the other fishermen for donating them to us. They really are amazing creatures and it’s fantastic to have three of them on display.

“Sponge Crabs have two pairs of modified legs tipped with needle-like pincers which they use to secure sponges which sit on their backs. They are quite adept at moving sponges over the whole of their body to enable them to hide.

“However, this means that they only have two pairs of legs to walk on so they tend to also use their front claws to assist them with walking.

“Their bodies, claws and legs are completely covered in a thick furry ‘felt’ except for the tips of their claws which are a vivid ‘rose pink’!” she added.

In warmer waters the crabs have been found using the rubber soles of flip flops in place of living sponges.

Issued by Blue Reef. For more information and to arrange interviews and picture opportunities please contact Jenni Smith or Steve Matchett on 01637 878134.