Critter of the Week - Gastroptychus rogeri

While the world’s crustacean experts gather in Frankfurt for the 8th International Crustacean Congress (including three of our own NIWA scientists), we of course have to celebrate a crustacean. One of the most beautiful in our biased eyes is the football crab Gastroptychus rogeri.

Gastroptychus rogeri

The species was described in 2000 by the world’s foremost squat lobster expert Keiji Baba from Japan who examined specimens from around 1000m depth on the South Tasmanian seamounts. The species is now known from around the New Zealand continental shelf as well where it also prefers the deeper waters around 1000m depth.

It’s by far the largest squat lobster around New Zealand with the body and legs measuring up to around 40 cm in total.

Gastroptychus rogeri is typically seen perched on deepsea corals, either gorgonians or black corals where it probably grabs whatever food particle comes past its pincers.  

It is named in honour of Roger Buttermore, a curator of the Tasmanian Museum who made the material available for study. 

Chirostylidae

Gastroptychus rogeri belongs to the crustacean family Chirostylidae, which is one of the groups commonly referred to as squat lobsters. We have featured three of its cousins already (CotW 33 Munidopsis, 95 Uroptychus bispinatus and 97 Babamunida callista) so you already know four of the around 200 species now known in our New Zealand waters. Squat lobsters are diverse and abundant all around the world’s oceans (except for the extreme Polar Regions) and are important for local fisheries in Central America but while they can occur in amazing abundances off New Zealand. In New Zealand, the juvenile squat lobster Munida gregaria sometimes swarms around the coasts and washing up around the shores in huge numbers causing a feeding frenzy among whales, seals and sea birds.

Check out this story from stuff.co.nz about large swarms of lobster krill spotted around the coast of Marlborough, including Picton Marina, in February 2013.

Fishermen call Gastroptychus rogeri the football crab since the red and white stripes of its body remind them of a rugby jersey. [Kareen Schnabel]  
Gastroptychus rogeri (arrow) perched on a bubblegum coral among a beautiful array of hard corals and sponges (at around 1000 m depth on Ghoul seamount. [NIWA/ Seamounts voyage]    
Gastroptychus rogeri in its full glory. The largest squat lobster in New Zealand waters, with about 40 cm from the tip of the claws to the tail and with the entire body covered in spines. Unfortunately, the lovely colours disappear once the specimen has been fixed in ethanol. [Kareen Schnabel]