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January 18, 2005

Crabs In Space

We found several of these strange crablike creatures hanging on our lines while tuna fishing in the canyons off Rhode Island.

Q: We found several of these strange crablike creatures hanging on our lines while tuna fishing in the canyons off Rhode Island. We were about 95 miles from land in approximately 600 feet of water. The body and legs were completely transparent, and the actual body area was only about as thick as a sheet of paper. Only one small brown speck could be seen in the clear stomach area, and it had two very small gray specks for eyes. Any clue what it is?

-Noel Luth
 Milford, Connecticut

A: The critter does appear strange, but it's the larva of a type of lobster. I had to double-check this one with some colleagues, and we all agree: It's most likely the larva of one of the slipper lobsters. Most of these are small, but one species - sometimes called the Spanish lobster or bulldozer lobster - is large enough to find its way into seafood markets on occasion. The larvae spend several months in planktonic form before settling out, and biologists believe this aids in the species' dispersal to various habitats throughout its range.

- Bob Shipp