Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Miniature orange hermit

I bring home a handful of seaweed; sea lettuce, rockweed, maybe some Turkish washcloth, a blade or two of eelgrass; food and gym equipment for my hermit crabs. Before I add it to the tank, I wash it off in seawater, to remove any beach trash. And a sprinkling of apparent sand grains fall off, sprout legs, and race around the washbasin.

These tiniest of hermits grow to fill an approximately 1/4 inch long shell, never more. I thought at first that they might have been immature hairy hermits that would darken as they grew, but I never see them move on to larger shells.

They have orange legs with white bands. Sometimes they are big enough for me to see the antennae with the naked eye; it is green, with white bands. The legs and body are very slightly hairy.

I've struggled, over the years, to find a clear identification of these hermits. At first, I was calling them greenmark hermits, Pagurus caurinus. A sort of match, at least for the orange colour and the size. And maybe some were greenmarks. But not all.

One of the larger ones, still tiny, on an oyster shell. Not a greenmark.

The greenmark hermit sometimes has the orange legs, and are tiny, but their antennae are red and unbanded. These have green, banded antennae and white pincer tips.

I saw one out of his shell, freshly molted, and out looking for a larger (grain of rice sized) one.

Pink striped body, purplish rear end, green banded antennae. Not a greenmark. Another in the background. Their legs are always clean, the colours sharp.

I've searched everywhere I could think of; I can't find the match to this. There's another tiny orange hermit in this area, growing to 0.6 cm as an adult, the Brilliant, Parapagurodes hartae, but he is a brilliant orange all over, with little white banding. And I think, from the photos, that the antennae are orange, too.

Another. The one in the background from the previous photo.

The last crop of rockweed and a shell-full of sand brought a fresh batch to my tank. There must be at least a dozen, all racing around, climbing on and over everything. Cute little critters!

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