Phyllolithodes papillosus Brandt, 1848
Apart from the obvious delicacy and beauty of this specimen, which overwhelmed me when I first saw it, it was actually the ‘u’ shaped depression in the middle of the dorsal side of this specimen that caught my eye. It looks spectacular and, now that the specimen is bleached of it’s colour you can see clearly every ridge and nook. It would originally have been a muddy brown/green with dark red ridges, colours which are long gone from our specimen here in Manchester. It seems like an unusual little thing, which I like and it makes me want to know more.
I then went on to find that it’s common name is the heart crab. For such a masculine and sturdy looking thing, I couldn’t help but think the heart crab didn’t do it much justice.
They are found from subtidal zones right down to 183m. Heart crabs generally live amongst anemones, and are seen in symbiosis with the snakelock anenome after molting to gain protection. They are seen commonly feeding on sponges and sea urchins, with highest predation threat from octopuses.
When I read about these creatures I can really see them coming to life in front of me. For this specimen I can imagine how their spines, which cover the legs, the claws and the carapace, play a vital part in defence but are also excellent camouflage when nestling amongst anemones awaiting their prey.
This particular specimen was a group of 5 that were found yesterday by one of the lovely members of staff here in Entomology, Phil, who found the box this was housed in whilst on its journey back from the display cases. So who knows, if you have been to Manchester Museum in the past, you could well have seen this very specimen on display.