Monday, April 4, 2011
C is for Coconut Crab
No, folks. This is not Photoshopped. That is a giant crab stealing your garbage. But don't worry, this beast is native to islands in the Indo-Pacific region.
The coconut crab, so named because it can crush a coconut with its bare claws, can grow up to three feet wide, including leg span. It is the largest land arthropod, and according to Wikipedia, given today's atmospheric conditions is likely at the size limit for how large an arthropod living on land can grow.
Small comforts, right?
Well, if it makes you feel any better, the coconut crab is predominantly frugivorous, meaning that it isn't just cracking those coconuts to intimidate the humans so keen on driving the poor bugger into extinction. Fleshy fruits are his choice diet, however they will also scavenge on dead animals and pick off slow and weak baby tortoises. They are also keen on stealing shiny objects from people's tents. I haven't found a good reason as to why.
Coconut crabs are nocturnal, living in self-made burrows during the day to protect them from predators (ha!), and lurking the beaches and streets by night.
Well, it turns out these guys are in danger of becoming endangered. Their meat is considered a delicacy, much like lobster is. But who really wants to chase one of these buggers down?
Somehow, this beast is closely related to the hermit crab. You know, that little thing you keep in way-too-small enclosures with sponges, some colored rocks and assorted shells for him to grow into? Baby coconut crabs, with soft shells, will climb into shells of other organisms, and adolescents will use coconut shells to protect their soft abdomens. Adults, when they molt, will stay hidden for up to a month while their exoskeleton hardens.
Coconut crabs have caught on in Japan as popular pets, and guides for their care include how to open their strong pincers if you get pinched (just tickle them and they'll release you, but otherwise they will hold on forever).
Images courtesy of cryptomundo.com