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Unusual hairy crab found on Dorset beach is a mystery

Hairy crab found on Chesil beach in Dorset Photo: Steve Trewhella

There's excitement in the scientific community after a naturalist found an unusual hairy crab while walking along the Dorset coastline.

Steve Trewhella, who is also a photographer, collected the crab from a buoy which is believed to have drifted 4,000 - 5,000 miles across the ocean, possibly from Florida. Mr Trewhella said that he was not sure if the crab is from an entirely new species or just new to northern Europe.

The naturalist found the crab on Chesil beach two year ago and it is still being examined by the Natural History Museum. He said that while most people might have ignored the buoy or picked it up and discarded it, as a naturalist, his reaction is quite different.

The Florida fishing buoy which housed the crab Credit: Steve Trewhella

"There are lots of creatures hitching a lift on the plastic litter that gets carried across the globe by the ocean current . The litter is an artificial conveyor belt for creatures to travel - in the last 5 years there have been 10-20 new species of marine life found in northern Europe.

"While this is exciting and interesting, it is also a worry because these creatures are washing up alive and could become invasive - there is a history of this happening, look at Japanese knotweed that now costs millions but it seemed a good idea when it was first introduced.

"Marine life is no different we could have invasive species from the Caribbean that could have an impact on native marine life. This may only be a small crab but if it were to be invasive that would have an impact on native crabs wish we fish and that could cost our economy."

– Steve Trewhella

The Natural History Museum said that its scientists are conducting DNA studies on the crab and they will publish more information when they have identified the species. They said that the analysis process can take a different amount of time from species to species.