Crustaceans in a can, anyone? Simon Morley looks at a fast-moving predator that actually lives in squats
We were at the beach Everybody had matching towels Somebody went under a dock And there they saw a rock It wasn't a rock It was a rock lobster (Apologies to the B-52s!)
HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU BEEN bimbling along on a dive and caught a sudden movement out of the corner of your eye? So you turn your head to have a closer look, only to find a miniature explosion of sand or silt. You carry on your way, not giving it a second thought. But stop and have a closer look, and you'll see something a little special. Probably the most common lobster to be found in the UK (if you're quick enough) is the squat lobster (Lauriea siagiani). These aren't actually lobsters, and they are a closer relative of the hermit crab than part of the lobster family. They have no tail, but longer 'arms', hence the name lobster. If you sneak up on them, you'll see dozens perched on reefs and rocks waiting for fish to swim by that they can try to catch with their claws. The spiny squat lobster (Galathea strigosa) can be a bit trickier to find. These don't tend to roam as much as their relatives. However, they're worth finding for their vibrant colouring - and bragging rights for finding one in the first place! Startle one, however, and you'll see it reversing into its nook faster than James Bond's BMW reversing to escape the baddies! Its flattened body and abdomen tucked up under itself ensures that it can make itself quite comfortable in the tightest of crevices, ready to face its attackers claws-first. Beware, squat lobsters can give you a nasty nip. More than happy to live under rocks, it is not uncommon for them to move into old tin cans, traffic cones and even squeeze into discarded beer bottles! Remember, not all clouds of silt are caused by your buddy's fins! Stop and look around, and you may be surprised by what you find.
Did you know...
Squat lobsters' arms can grow to several times their body length?
They sometimes steal food from sea anemones?
Their exo-skeleton is moulted multiple times through their lives as they grow?
They have been recorded reversing at more than 5m per second?