Woods Hole Scientists Discover Giant Crab Cloud Near Panama

Just a big ball o' nope.

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Cape Cod made a terrifying discovery around this time last year. While exploring the Hannibal Bank Seamount, located off the coast of Panama, the team found a giant mass of red crabs swarming together like insects.

The Woods Hole team’s findings, published in the journal PeerJ Tuesday, detail how thousands of Pleuroncodes planipes, also known as tuna crab, formed a nightmarish crab cloud roughly 1,200 feet below the surface, where oxygen is scarce.

“When we dove down in the submarine, we noticed the water became murkier as we got closer to the bottom,” said Jesús Pineda, the Woods Hole biologist who led the expedition. “There was this turbid layer, and you couldn’t see a thing beyond it. We just saw this cloud but had no idea what was causing it.”

(This is the part in the horror movie when you turn the hell around and go home.)

“As we slowly moved down to the bottom of the seafloor, all of the sudden we saw these things,” Pineda continued. “At first, we thought they were biogenic rocks or structures. Once we saw them moving—swarming like insects—we couldn’t believe it.”

The crabs, which measure between 1 and 5 inches long, are usually found near Baja California. So this crab cloud’s southern locale perplexed the researchers.

“No one had ever found this species that far south. To find a species at the extreme of their range and to be so abundant is very unusual,” Pineda said.