5 fun facts about a crab we didn’t know existed

Cancellus heatherae

This month, researchers at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History identified a new species of hermit crab. Found in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, the researchers named the new species Cancellus heatherae to honor FIU marine evolutionary biologist Heather Bracken-Grissom.

Hello world! Meet the Heather crab

Here are five fun things you never knew you wanted to know about Cancellus heatherae.

  • It’s pretty small — less than an inch. That’s one reason it’s never been discovered before.
  • They like to hide out in the gulf’s lower mesophotic zone — a middle area with limited light. Another reason why they’ve never been discovered before. Can’t exactly Uber to the mesophotic zone.
  • It has no shell. Hard to believe? Shell me about it! How can it be a hermit without a shell? But according to Bracken-Grissom, several species of hermit crabs forego the stereotype and live quite content without a shell.
  • The species’ namesake is as exciting as its discovery. A crustacean expert in her own right, Bracken-Grissom has spent much of her career working on the National Science Foundation’s Decapod Tree of Life, discovered a monster larva was actually a shrimp and was part of a team that was the first to capture a giant squid on video in U.S. Waters. She’s also a triathlete and mother of two young girls.
  • Congratulations! It’s a girl! Only one known sample exists above water of Cancellus heatherae — a female. It now resides at the Smithsonian, the permanent record of a little hermit crab that until recently, we had no idea existed.