Candy Cane Crab Is a New Species From the Caribbean

CC BY 4.0. Rafael Lemaitre and Ellen Muller

A beautiful new species of hermit crab discovered near the island of Bonaire is a helpful reminder of the planet’s endless secrets.

In times when science and nature are under assault, it may be helpful to remember that no matter the depths of human folly, this planet is so much bigger than us. For example, even though scientists have been describing new species for hundreds of years, it’s estimated that a scant 15 percent of the planet’s 8.7 million species have been discovered. This gorgeous orb holds so many secrets and each time a new one is revealed, I feel humbled and hopeful.

The latest marvel to catch my eye is the "Candy striped hermit crab," a diminutive decapod crustacean only a few millimeters long. Discovered in the National Marine Park of the southern Caribbean island of Bonaire by underwater photographer Ellen Muller, the petite beauty with peppermint stripes was awarded the scientific name Pylopaguropsis mollymullerae after Muller's young granddaughter, Molly. The elder Muller expects that the honor will "inspire her to continue the tradition of protecting the amazing and fragile diversity of marine life in Bonaire.”

The right pincer of the candy-cane sweetheart is remarkable and unique with its shape and massive size relative to its body. The underside of the claw is unusually scoop-like, and researchers are unsure about its purpose; as well, there seems to be an ecological association of the new species with moray eels – adding even more mystery.

You can read the full description in ZooKeys where it was published. And in the meantime, watch the video below, taken by Muller, that displays this elegant little creature in action. A good reminder that even as Earth faces immeasurable challenges, there is so much magic and beauty tucked away. The planet will prevail.