The Sternostylus rogeri, also known as a football crab or pāpaka whutupōro is a squat lobster – an important link in the sea’s food chain. They eat small animals like copepods, and also rotting organisms, such as tohorā tohorāwhaleMāori carcases, from the sea floor.
Behind those long pincers are three pairs of walking legs. Plus, the squat lobster has a fourth, smaller pair that it uses to clean its gills. Long pincers help it to protect itself, and reach for food.
See the hairs (or setae) on the squat lobster’s claws? They brush food off coral branches.
The abdomen (tail) is normally tucked underneath their pincers, making them look squat.
For predatory fish, seabirds, and whales, squat lobsters make tasty meals. They are found on deep-sea corals around Aotearoa New Zealand and south-eastern Australia, 500–1,300 metres deep.
Squat lobster, Sternostylus rogeri, on a New Zealand black coral, 2007. Photo courtesy of NIWA
Squat lobsters have an unusual ability to survive with very little oxygen – giving them access to food in deep parts of the sea where other animals can’t go.
Squat lobster specimens, freshly caught from the northern Tasman Sea and photographed on board ship, NORFANZ Expedition 2003. Photos by NORFANZ Partners. Compilation by Rick Webber and Raymond Coory. Te Papa
This page is part of Ngā Kaitiaki | Guardians section of Te Taiao | Nature at Te Papa.