A crab called Tutankhamen

by Blair
Publish date
31 March 2011
Comments (6)

I just heard of a crab species with the scientific name Tutankhamen. Crab Tut! Kind of cool considering we are about to open the world-famous Tutankhamun exhibition.

Tutankhamen cristatipes has a spiny triangular body, pointed nose (the rostrum) and elongated claws that look like a plumber’s wrench. It is quite small, with a body 15 mm wide and legs about 30 mm long.

Tutankhamen cristatipes Tutankhamen cristatipes
Source: Rathbun, M.J. (1925) The spider crabs of America. United States National Museum Bulletin, 129, 1-613

Tutankhamen cristatipes was named in 1925 by Mary J. Rathbun (1860-1943). In total, she described 1147 new species and subspecies, 63 new genera, one subfamily, three families and a superfamily.

“A few years earlier, King Tut’s tomb was uncovered and I think she could have named it in the Pharaoh-fever that swept the world at that time,” crustacean expert and PhD colleague Anna McCallum tells me.

Mary Jane Rathbun Mary Jane Rathbun at work. She began as an unpaid assistant to her brother, Richard Rathbun, and was later employed as a curator at the Smithsonian Institution.
Source: Smithsonian Institution Archives via Wikimedia Commons.

Crab Tut is almost as rare as King Tut too - it is known from only two specimens. Both Tuts had exclusive habitats: the king in the Egyptian deserts and the crab in deep waters on the outer continental slope off Florida. And they both reside in hard outer skeletons: King Tut in his sarcophagus, Crab Tut in its carapace.

I couldn’t find what colour Crab Tut is, but I’d like to dream it’s as colourful as the gold and blue sarcophagus of King Tut. This is definitely one cool character of the crustacean world.


Mary J. Rathbun on Wikipedia

Comments (6)

sort by
Cilla 1 April, 2011 09:07
Ah! Great story!
Adrienne 1 April, 2011 15:19
Nice work as always! Love the idea that the discovery of Tutankhamun would inspire the taxonomy of natural science. I wonder if anything else is named after Egyptian finds?
Jennifer 1 April, 2011 16:48
Loved the Tut combo Blair you are my favourite museum blogger!
Rod 2 April, 2011 14:42
Great post.
Rhiannon!!!! 5 April, 2011 07:24
That's cool. Who would have known? Those claws look like they could open a sarcophagus!!!
Blair 5 April, 2011 12:38
Yeh I like the claws too. It was also interesting noting the slight difference in spelling between the crab and the king. There are a few different accepted spellings and Mary chose the one with an e - Tutankhamen not Tutankhamun.
Write your comment below All fields are required

We love receiving comments, but can’t always respond.

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.