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December 19, 2022

Decorator crabs know how to celebrate the holidays in style

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Credit: atese-scaled/iStock


Decorator crabs are as fascinating as their name suggests and sure know how to celebrate the holidays in style! Interestingly, the term Decorator Crab describes many different species of crabs, including several different species of spider crabs, harlequin crabs, moss crabs, little seaweed crabs and toothed crabs. While there are many types of decorator crabs all over the world, they all share the same quirky trait of decorating their shells with pieces of seaweed, rocks and even other small animals like corals and sponges.

These clever animals are experts at blending into their surroundings. They fasten things they find onto hooked bristles on the back of their carapace, or shell, providing them with excellent camouflage. These hooked bristles are known as setae and they act very much like Velcro. This allows the crab to change what is hooked to its body if needed – for example, a crab may take off a ring of seaweed scavenged earlier if it finds a stinging anemone that could better scare off a hungry fish or larger crab. This camouflage helps protect the crab from predators and as long as they stay in the general area of where they scavenged, the crab can look near invisible.

Watch this to learn more about decorator crabs and join our community of Wavemakers to stay up to date on the latest ocean news!