Squat lobsters are small, colorful and not actually lobsters.
Although the Squat Lobster looks somewhat similar to your standard lobster, they are missing one very important feature – a hard, protective shell. In fact, this lobster is more closely related to the hermit crab then your typical “true lobster”.
So how do they protect themselves if they don’t have a shell? They will often hide in crevices or underneath rocks, exposing only their long arms and claws, which usually prevents any would-be attackers from trying anything funny. These long arms also allow the Squat Lobster to pick up plenty of fallen food while safely hiding underneath their protective fortress. I guess having arms several times the length of your body is actually a good thing.
Widely distributed worldwide, there are 60 genera and over 900 species. Scientists estimate that as many as 120 species may not yet have been discovered.
Two species are found in California waters. Munida quadraspina is found in Pacific Ocean waters from Sitka, Alaska to the Coronado’s in Baja California. Munida hispida ranges from Monterey Bay, California south to the Galapagos Islands.
Although, they may be found near the surface, most squat lobsters live on the sea floor. They are found in sea mounts, canyons, and next to deep sea hydrothermal vents. Most species swarm together in large numbers. Munida hispida lives in depths of 12 to 1463 m (39.4 to 4800 ft.), generally in rock faces and cobble. M. quadraspina also lives in deep water. Juvenile squat lobsters may swarm in the water column, especially where there is a bloom of plankton for them to eat. Cervimunida princeps are found at depths of 76 to 145 m (250 to 40o ft
Squat lobsters’ arms can grow to be several times their body length.
Squat lobsters sometimes steal food from sea anemones.
One squat lobster species, M. andamanica, eats only wood from sources such as sunken trees called wood falls or the timbers from shipwrecks.