Yeti Crab: Appearance, Facts, Habitat, Prey & More 

The yeti crab has a usually crab-like form (hard shell, long limbs, large claws), but it also resembles the fabled snowman for which it was given its name. The 6-inch long, all-white body is the distinctive characteristic, as are the long, bristly claws that allow them to collect microorganisms. Some, as stated before, have hairy chests in addition to or instead of hairy claws. It is believed to be totally or primarily blind due to its severely shrunken eyes.

Yeti Crab Facts Overview

Habitat Deep-sea
Location South Pacific Ocean
Lifespan 10 – 20 years
Size 15 cm (6 inches)
Weight 2 – 5 pounds
Color Pale white, grey and yellow
Diet Bacteria, mussels
Predators Octopus, fish
Top Speed 2 – 3 mph
No. of Species 5
Conservation Status Unknown

Distribution, Population, and Habitat

The southern Pacific Ocean, which is close to Antarctic waters, is where the yeti crab is largely indigenous. A hydrothermal vent is essentially a break in the deep sea floor where hot, mineral-rich water emerges from the earth’s surface near to where they live.

Even though they are perfectly at home here, survival nevertheless requires a very delicate balance. The sea is rather cold, and they run the risk of drowning if they go too far from the vents. But if they veer too close, they run the risk of overheating and passing out. Kiwa hirsuta, the most well-known yeti crab, is thought to be relatively common in close proximity to hydrothermal vents in the southern Pacific, although there isn’t enough information about them.

Predators and Prey

The hydrothermal vent area has a unique way of life from practically everything else in the world. The energy that organisms convert comes straight from the chemical that is emitted from the vents because they cannot rely on sunlight to do so. Although its function in this intricate ecology is still not entirely understood, we do know that the yeti crab feeds on the bacteria that seep from the surface.

Classification and Scientific Name

The yeti crab family is known by the scientific name Kiwa. It has the name of the Polynesian goddess of shellfish. The yeti is not thought to belong to the “true crabs,” but rather to the squat lobsters, a group that also contains hermit crabs. They are a member of the decapod order more broadly.

Yeti Crab Scientific Classification

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Arthropoda
Class Malacostraca
Order Decapoda
Family Kiwaidae
Genus Kiwa

3 Incredible Yeti Crab Facts

One of the more intriguing facts is that yeti crabs stack up on top of one another close to hydrothermal vents to keep warm. 700 crabs were tallied by one scientist per square meter. The yeti crab family is thought to have initially formed some 30 million years ago, when their ancestors first settled in hydrothermal vent biomes, according to a genetic study. The yeti crab is white or gray because it lacks color pigments, which is necessary for its deep-water habitat.


Kiwa Hirsuta: A team of researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium made the initial discovery of this species back in 2005. The crab was sufficiently distinct from all other decapods that it deserved its own family. In Latin, hirsute means “hairy,” hence the name.

Kiwa Puravida: In 2006, a second species was found close to Costa Rican seas. Similar to Kiwa hirsute, it has hairy claws.

Kiwa Tyleri: This species was identified for the first time in 2010 and is found in the East Scotia Ridge, close north of Antarctica. Its hairy chest earned it the nickname “Hoff crab” in jest since it looked like actor David Hasselhoff. Its surroundings are so harsh that the temperature can fall by 400 degrees Celsius in a matter of feet.

Unnamed Species: In the middle of the Indian Ocean, at a location known as Longqi, or Dragon’s Breath, a fourth nameless species was discovered for the first time in 2011. Similar to the Hoff crab, this species’ claws are quite short, and its breast is where its hair is situated. They appear to be somewhat closely linked to Kiwa tyleri based on genetic study. It has been about 1.5 million years since they last had a common ancestor.

Kiwa Araonae: The Australian-Antarctic Ridge is where this species was first found in 2013. It does not have long hair, but it does have lengthy claws.

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