All Dressed Up in the Coral Reef Center

You might have overlooked some of the newest residents of the Yawkey Coral Reef Center, and that's just how our new decorator crabs (Podochela sidney) like it. You see, these delicate crustaceans cover themselves with elements found in their environment—like seaweed or sponges or even little anemones—so they blend in.

This compact exhibit features two decorator crabs, a purple spotted shrimp, several juvenile pipefish and a spotted batfish.
Can you spot the decorator crabs?

Here are some clues to help you find these guys hiding in plain sight. They're only a couple inches from leg to leg. There's a pinkish anemone growing on each crab's back. They have also collected pieces of algae and affixed them to their spindly legs with the help of tiny spikes that act almost like velcro. At the end of one crab's legs, it has attached hunks clam overlooked by the resident batfish—mmm, tasty.

Here's a close up look. Can you see it now?
The crab is holding up one of its claws, the second crab is out of focus in the background.

But these crabs didn't always looks so green and ruffly. They arrived with a much different aesthetic based on their previous habitat, which was dominated by orange sponges.

The disguises attached to the crab's legs were mostly chunky bits of sponge.

Like all new arrivals at the Aquarium, these crabs had to go through a brief quarantine period. During this time they started to shed their old look and incorporate bits of their new surroundings.

Decorator crab in transition: Note the beginnings of the seaweed ruffles on its legs

Transformation complete!

This species of crab is native to the Caribbean. It lives in coral reefs at 10 to 30 feet deep. Each one can grow nearly 4 inches from the tip of one long, thin leg to the other. Underneath all that flare, these decorator crabs are a beige to reddish color.

Now on exhibit, you can see these handsome crustaceans in all their festive attire! 

Meet some other residents of the Yawkey Coral Reef Center and around the Aquarium! 
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