Furry lobster placed in new family

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A new species of lobster which is covered with fur is so unusual that it has been placed in its own new family.

The lobster, dubbed the "yeti crab", which is to be named Kiwa hirsuta in a paper in Zoosystema, the journal of the Paris Museum of Natural History, was caught off Easter Island in the South Pacific.

The decapod crustacean has very long fur along its pincers and is white in colour. It has been placed in a new family called the Kiwaidae, and it is currently the only known representative.

The new species was caught at a depth of 2300m/7540ft and may be found in an extreme environment near hydrothermal vents which release toxic chemicals into the water.

According to a report from the BBC, the lobster's hair-like appendages might be an adaptation for this toxic environment.

Dr Michel Segonzac of the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer) told the BBC that the furry pincers harboured filamentous bacteria.

The BBC says that some scientists believe these bacteria might be working as biological filters, by detoxifying toxins produced by underwater vents, making it possible for the lobster to live in potentially dangerous conditions.

Little is known about the biology of the species. Segonzac told the BBC that he believes the species is carnivorous, as it has been observed fighting with crabs for a piece of shrimp.

However, others believe that it may feed upon the bacteria that live within its furry claws.