Prime Minister Lee takes a photo of the 3D printed model of the Indopinnixa Shellorum - Shell Pea Crab
Prime Minister Lee takes a photo of the 3D printed model of the Indopinnixa Shellorum - Shell Pea Crab

A new crab specimen discovered in the waters of Singapore was turned into an unusual gift last week for the Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The “Indopinnixa Shellorum” is a new species of pea crab whose other cousins have been found only in Japan, Hong Kong and Lombok in Indonesia. To date, only seven species are known to science, including this latest discovery.

Shell created a model of this pea crab using 3D printing technology, amplifying its size multiple times in order to showcase it in a glass case. There were many reasons for presenting the gift: The crab was discovered in an inaugural government-led national marine biodiversity survey sponsored by Shell. And the specimen has been named after Shell (“Shellorum”) - to honour the men and women who work at Shell - as a result of the company’s support for the marine survey.

There was also the right occasion to gift: an award ceremony hosted by the Singapore government last Thursday honouring Shell’s longstanding contribution to the country’s economic and social growth made the gifting especially meaningful. The crab discovery has been made possible by community partnerships involving the National Parks Board, the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (formerly Raffles Museum of Biodiversity and Research), and the Institute of Technical Education, which was responsible for printing the pea crab model with 3D technology.

About "Indopinnixa Shellorum"

The common name for the Shellorum is Shell Pea Crab. This group of crabs are commonly called pea crabs because of their small size. Indopinnixa is the genus or group of pea crabs found only in East and Southeast Asia. Before the discovery, six species were known to science and have been found in Japan, Hong Kong and Lombok in Indonesia.

This is the first report of this group of pea crabs from Singapore, and as it turns out, is also a new species! Indopinnixa are small sized crabs usually 4 to 6 mm in shell width (10-15 mm including legs) that normally live in soft bottoms with fine sand. They are believed to be found together with their friends the peanut worms, but have also been collected independently. 

Not much is known about the biology and behaviour of these very secretive animals. The new species found in Singapore was collected by a "yabby-pump" – a tool used to suck small marine animals out of holes in the intertidal area. With the help of this method, our “Indopinnixa shellorum” was discovered on beautiful St John's Island, and was collected during the expedition of the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey from 20 May to 7 June 2013.

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