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How did the chest-hair-farming Hoff crab evolve? Scientists solve mystery (+ video)

Named for the hairy-chested actor David Hasselhoff, the Hoff crab is now thought to have originated in the Pacific Ocean. Today it is threatened by global warming, say scientists.

Footage from first ROV dives to vent fields at depth ~2400 m on the East Scotia Ridge, near Antarctica, from RRS James Cook Voyage 42 in January-February 2010.
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This crab has come a long way to farm its own chest hair.

A team of Oxford University scientists has found that Hoff crabs are recent migrants from the Pacific Ocean, taking the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica and scuttling to deep-sea vents in the Southern and Indian Oceans. They are believed to have split from their cousins, the hairy-clawed Yeti crabs, in making the long move.

Hoff crabs were discovered in 2010, some five years after the discovery of the Yeti crab. The two species are now believed to share a common ancestor that lived about 40 million years ago.

Hoff crabs, so named after shaggy-chested actor David Hasselhoff, had previously thought not to have moved much at all. Scientists had suggested that the unusual animals were living fossils, ancient crabs that had been forgotten deep beneath the sea.

The furry little crabs make their homes in some of Earth's most improbable environments, clinging to deep-sea volcanic vents that heat the water to 716 degrees Fahrenheit. There is no light there, and the water offers little oxygen, but lots of noxious chemicals, . 


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