Species Feature: Chirostylus squat lobster

Chirostylus dolichopus squat lobster

Firstly please excuse the quality of the photos, I never actually knew the squat lobster was there when I took these photographs so most of these photos are cropped and the focus is not on the subject.  This is due to the fact I have only found them from 65 to 120m and at that depth you don’t have time to search or even really look at your subject you just photograph, and in addition all color looks the same drab blue at that depth.   In saying that I first photographed this species in July 2014 at 76m and have photographed it at most deep sites we dive off Hurghada, Egypt, and I also spotted one at 115m in Sudan.  I have photograph them on different types of gorgonian, whip corals, rock dropoffs, on a wreck, and frequently there are two or three found in the same frame.  Because of the frequency I find this species I would assume it is quite common and widely distributed throughout the Red Sea.

After photographing this species for the first time I inquired what it was because I had never seen it in the Red Sea.  My identification search directed me to a leading Chirostylus expert in Japan, Masayuki Osawa, who thought this species may be new to science as there is no Chirostylus species scientifically described in the Red Sea.  After more analysis it was determined this species is Chirostylus dolichopus, “widely recorded from the Indo-West Pacific, although future studies may reveal that the Indian Ocean (including the Red Sea) population is referred to an undescribed species based on subtle differences [as] the wide distribution is rather unusual in species of the genus Chirostylus.”  There was a period where I was hoping I could name this species, so I guess there is still a bit of hope if we can do a bit more research on the subtle differences between specimens from different geographical regions.