New crab species discovered in Costa Rica named after pura vida

December 7, 2011

Scientists have announced that a new species of yeti crab has been discovered living in the Pacific Ocean about 50 nautical miles off the coast of northwest Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula.

The crab was named Kiwa puravida for Costa Rica’s signature catchphrase, “pura vida” (pure life). K. puravida dwells at a depth of 1,000 meters and lives off bacteria that grows on its front claws. The crabs nourish the bacteria by waving their claws over ocean vents called seeps that emit hydrogen sulfide and methane. After these dance-like movements, the crabs harvest the bacteria with an appendage that shovels the bacteria into their mouths.

Scientists from the University of South Carolina and New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research collaborated with Andrew Thurber of Oregon State University to complete the study of the crab. K. puravida was first spotted in 2006. Expeditions were made in 2009 and 2010 to collect specimens for further study.

“We’ve spent a total of about 15 days in Costa Rica,” Thurber said. “The second time we went, we were able to work with Costa Rican scientists and we had a great time.”          

K. puravida is only the second species of yeti crab to be discovered. The yeti crab was first discovered in 2005 just west of Easter Island in the southeast Pacific. Thurber said he believes there is a “strong possibility” that other species of yeti crab are out there.

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