‘Purple Forest’
(Natural History Episode 7)

This week's video features an aquascape comprised of the beautiful purple macro algae Asparagopsis taxiformis. However, if you pay close attention to the left 1/3 of the screen, you'll notice something... moving with claws... Nestled amongst the algae is a perfectly camouflaged decorator crab (Microphrys bicornuta). Keep paying attention... at 26 seconds into the clip you'll notice a tiny isopod crustacean float by in the current and descend helicopter-style right onto the crab's back. The unsuspecting isopod has no idea that it has landed upon an algae covered beast. Furthermore, it appears that the crab is not aware of the unexpected visitor until the isopod begins to explore its decorated exoskeleton. 50 seconds into the clip the isopod meets its fate with a few swift snatches of the crab's claws. Without missing a beat, the crab continues scavenging amongst the rocks and algae. And life on the reef goes on...

Decorator crabs are amazing creatures in that they pick up pieces of their surrounding habitat and place them on their carapace (back, exoskeleton) in order to blend into their surroundings. Decorator crabs that live amongst sponges decorate with sponges, those that live amongst zoanthids use zoanthids, and so on. This instinctual logic is truly remarkable. The crab in the video has attached small pieces of the Asparagopsis upon itself, and as a result is all but indistinguishable from its surroundings.

Video, Aquarium + Original Soundtrack: Coral Morphologic

See bit.ly/9n1NSn for more details.

Screened at ATP Curated by Animal Collective | May 13-15, 2011 - Minehead, UK
Screened at Miami Underwater Festival | May 27-28, 2011 - Miami, FL

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