Invertebrates are poorly known, even colorful Squat Lobsters. Many of these brightly colored animals remain undescribed by scientists – a recent study of Florida Museum specimens identified 92 new species of Squat Lobsters.
Squat Lobsters…you ever hear of them? Probably not. Have you ever seen them? No, probably not, too. And that’s because these are another group that are major denizens of the matrix — the inside of the reef — that incredible series of honeycombed cavities that much of reef life and most of reef diversity lives in. These animals live inside of dead coral cavities and some of them come out at night and some of them don’t. They are very colorful — as some of these images can show you — and they’re also very poorly known.
We had a study on an island next to Tahiti — Moorea — where we tried to enumerate all of the different marine invertebrates that lived there. Eight of the nine species of Squat Lobsters we collected in this one genus, Galathea, the main genus of Squat Lobsters, was new. They were described in a paper by a friend of mine who revised this group. Revision is when you take a large group of animals and you clean up the taxonomy and decide how many species there are and describe the new ones. Well, at the end of that study he had 144 species in this genus; 92 of those were new, including the eight from Moorea. So that tells you how little we know about the water planet, especially animals that live inside the reef.
Curator, Invertebrate Zoology
Florida Museum of Natural History
Squat Lobsters (Munida valida)
From Monroe Co., Florida, Oct. 1989