Here at the museum, most of our specimens are collected from the research field, received through donations from other museums, or via reports of dead animals by the public.
In some instances, we also collect specimens through more ‘conventional’ means — the market! In fact, we often make it a point to visit local markets in our various field sites across Southeast Asia, as you never know what interesting critter will pop up. After all, the Sulawesi Coelacanth (Latimeria menadoensis), was discovered by Dr. Mark Erdmann in a Manado fish market while on his honeymoon!
Recently, Prof Peter Ng, LKCNHM head, collected an interesting specimen through similar means. He was having dinner at Turf City one evening when he came across an interesting live crab in one of the aquariums, and promptly bought the crab from the seafood joint. Saved from a certain fate of ending up on a dinner plate, the specimen was instead destined for the collection shelves at the museum.
This crab was later identified as a Golden King Crab (Lithodes aequispinus). According to Prof Ng, adults of this species can be as large, if not larger than their more famous counterparts, the Alaskan King Crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus).
Even though it looks crab-like, it is not a ‘true’ crab but actually related to hermit crabs. If you are confused, count the number of legs seen in this crab, and compare it with the mangrove mud crab, Scylla spp. 🙂
The crab’s origins were even more of a surprise as it was said to be from Korea, and if so, may be the first record of the species there.
Golden king crabs are not only found in East Asian waters which includes countries like South Korea, but can also be found in the Northern Pacific Ocean ranging from British Columbia in Canada all the way to Japan.
The crab is now awaiting final preparations at our laboratory before it is added to our wet collections along with other crustacean specimens. It will be invaluable as a future research specimen for comparative work and DNA studies.
The next time you visit a market, keep your eyes peeled out for interesting and unusual animals — they may be right under your nose!