Can you tell me if there is anybody who has never seen or wondered about hermit crabs?! I do not think many can honestly say that they haven’t got a clue what I am talking about. Hermit crab? The guy who takes over a shell and lives there? Of course you’ve seen at least once on your beach holidays!
I use to go past hermit crabs without really giving them as much as a second look till I started getting more and more interested in the underwater world. Wow, you see so many different types! Some are shy and have old shells, some are not scared to face you and some have beautiful new homes!
Hermit crabs are decapod crustaceans (literally, ten legs) and only the front part of their body have external skeleton – exoskeleton – which protects their body from outside. The rest of the crab’s body is soft and is hidden in a gastropod shell. This shell is being carried by hermit crab – its home and its protection from predators and damage. When the shell becomes too dirty or small, hermit crab will come out of it and change into a new one. The size of the shell is enough for the whole hermit crab to retract into it and stay hidden, protected.
Often hermit crabs use second hand shells. They form a sort of a “queue” and once a bigger crab comes out of his shell and gets into a new one, the next size crab comes out of his and gets into a vacant one, and so on. As they are wildlife creatures, they also fight and only the strongest survive. If you can’t get a bigger shell, the chances are that you will be eaten as you cannot retract fully, so competition is fierce where there is a shortage of gastropod shells. As we see many hermit crabs and many empty shells, we hope that our hermit crabs are safe!
I am sure this guy (above) is in need of a new home and I am sure I caught him on the way to get it! Look at his beautiful legs – hermit crabs can actually regrow their missing limbs. They also from time to time need to shed their exoskeleton so that they can grow in size and they form a new one – the process is called moulting, not an uncommon process in the animal world. And this crab below lives in a broken home – hopefully he will have moved on by now. I saw this beautiful broken shell and took a picture, and only when I was looking through the pictures on my laptop I noticed this hermit crab hidden inside.
Underwater world is a fascinating, and the more I see the more I wonder and love it!
P.S. Some people have hermit crabs as pets, can you imagine! If you are tempted to have one, please consider it carefully as it may turn out to be a lifelong commitment (or thereabouts) as some live over thirty years! I guess I understand though- who could resist such a sweetie!
For more information please have a look at Wikipeadia here or surf the Internet.