Crustaceans in glass houses. . .

July 29, 2012 • 4:07 am

This is from Milky Way Scientists (a Facebook site you really should join) via Matthew Cobb:

Scientists at the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre placed glass shells into a hermit crab tank. The crabs soon moved into the glass shells and made themselves comfortable, allowing researchers to take these amazing photographs.

There’s only one photo, but it’s cool:

Hermit crabs must change their shells as they molt and grow; here’s a video of the decisive moment when one moves house. The change is made very quickly, for the animal’s soft and vulnerable abdomen must not be exposed for long:

Read more about hermit crabs here.  Some can live 23 years in captivity.

13 thoughts on “Crustaceans in glass houses. . .

  1. Wonderful creatures. I used to drive my small children a few miles to a rocky Northumberland beach whose rock pools are home to hundreds of tiny hermit crabs. We’d collect a handful of empty winkle shells and put them in reach, then watch the crabs swiftly trying out each shell until they found one, I suppose, with just the right amount of growing space.

    I love the glass shell; hope the new occupant isn’t unduly photosensitive.

  2. How does the hermit know if non-glass shells are vacant? What about predatory lenders? Are there itemized deductions for mortgage interest on a 2nd shell?

  3. I understand that hermit crabs are a rather “talkative” lot, making a lot of noise especially at night. Is this true?

  4. I didn’t realize the this crab’s tail was so soft. You would almost think it was missing part of the exoskeleton.

    1. That’s kind of the point. By using second-hand shells, they save the expense of building shells of their own and discarding them at each molt.

      And it’s not the tail; it’s the body.

  5. Thinking about how they evolved – what was the ancestral crab like? Did a genetic error mean an individual had a soft body, or is it to do with how the free swimming larvae developed…? So many questions!

      1. …and Birgus latro the coconut crab, is a hermit crab (family)! And massive – “Coconut crabs may be responsible for the disappearance of Amelia Earhart’s remains” says Wikipedia.

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