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The world of the crustaceans is a world of bizarre shapes and adaptations. This group of animals is probably best known for their hard outer shell. As the animal grows, this shell must be removed and discarded. Once this takes place, the new shell takes time to harden. During this period, the animal is without its primary means of protection and vulnerable to attack from predators. But they have an impressive arsenal of weapons at their disposal. The claw of many crustaceans is capable of exerting hundreds of pounds of pressure. Some even have the unique ability to produce a deafening miniature sonic boom with which they stun their prey. The mantis shrimp can even break the glass of an aquarium or split a man's thumb to the bone with one strike. But in spite of their impressive armor and fierce weaponry, the crustaceans do occasionally meet their match. The teeth of the triggerfish and the beak of the octopus can crack through the toughest shells of crabs and lobsters, making an enjoyable meal. Below is a listing of some of the more common crustaceans to be found on the coral reef.

Arrow Crab (Stenorhynchus seticornis)
Arrow Crab
(Stenorhynchus seticornis)

These rather bizarre looking creatures get their name from the triangular or arrowhead shape of their bodies. Their long legs give them a spider-like appearance. They can reach a leg span of about six inches, and are notorious for pulling feather duster worms out of their tubes with their long claws.

Red Hermit Crab (Dardanus megistos)
Red Hermit Crab
(Dardanus megistos)

The hermit crab is a curious species that carries its home around on its back. Because the crab's abdomen is soft and vulnerable, its uses discarded snail shells to protect itself. As the crab grows larger, it must continually seek out larger shells. Hermit crabs are adept scavengers, and will feed on just about anything they find.

Purple Shore Crab (Hemigrapsus nudus)
Purple Shore Crab
(Hemigrapsus nudus)

The purple shore crab is commonly found on the open rocky seashores of the pacific coast of North America. It has a purple and red shell with a white underbelly, and grows to about 2 inches in length. This small crab can be seen scavenging the seashore where it feeds on algae and dead animal matter.

Anemone Crab (Neopetrolisthes ohshimai)
Anemone Crab
(Neopetrolisthes ohshimai)

The anemone crab is a small, colorful crab with a porcelain-like shell. Like the clownfish, this crab has developed an immunity to anemone stings. This crab is usually found within the stinging tentacles of a number of anemone species where it uses its large well-developed claws to keep clownfish from stealing its home.

Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)
Cleaner Shrimp
(Lysmata amboinensis)

The cleaner shrimp gets its name from its behavior of cleaning parasites and damaged scales from many species of fish, including moray eels and large groupers. Although it would make a tasty morsel, the shrimp is allowed to clean inside the fishes' mouth in complete safety with no danger of being eaten.

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