When we think of the biologists who devote their lives to the study of a narrow subset of life occupying a specific ecological niche, we rarely imagine that during the course of their study an important scientific discovery would occur as the result of nothing more than a happy accident. It is certainly not the case that any outside observer would expect to hear that the discovery of a previously unknown species occurred in a pet shop, a place in which the most exotic of its inhabitants is hardly uncommon throughout the rest of the world. As the cliché goes, however, reality is often stranger than fiction.
The Vampire Crab, a previously undiscovered species of crab native to Java, Indonesia, was “discovered” in a number of pet shops (in fairness, the pet shops were considered of the “exotic” variety) throughout the United Kingdom. When a biology expert whose focus happened to be crabs came upon the exotic pets now likely to be occupying fish tanks throughout the UK, it must have been a moment of great surprise due to his unfamiliarity with the species. After consulting with other experts and researching the crabs further, it was confirmed that two new species of crab had been hiding out, as David Kravitz might say, in plain sight.
The crabs were dubbed Geosesarma dennerle and Geosesarma hagen, though it seems likely that the exotic pet shops will continue to refer to them as Vampire Crabs for simplicity’s sake. While there tends to be a certain amount ofdeference reserved for professions requiring a great deal of academic study or highly specialized training, it is also worth remembering that even the most talented and intelligent individuals sometimes enjoy professional success as the direct result of a happy and unexpected accident. In this case, venturing into an exotic pet shop yielded an important scientific discovery in which an undiscovered species can now be studied further.