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Pattaya Daily News

18 May 2010 :: 17:05:02 pm 20889

The Fascinatingly Massive “Coconut Crab”

The life of the coconut crab begins on the ocean floor as larvae. The first month consists of floating and swimming, eventually settling on the seabed. They will search for a suitably sized seashell with which to crawl into, in preparation for their periodic visits on dry land.
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They eventually they leave the ocean, mingling with the Hermit Crabs, to which they are related, competing for the same resources and becoming permanent land dwellers losing their ability to breathe water. As they grow, they continue seeking out larger and more suitable shells to protect their still soft bodies with some reports of them wearing broken coconut shells. As their exoskeletons harden, so will they discard their adopted protection in the form of a seashell or broken coconut shell.

The coconut crab is a large terrestrial crustacean, the largest arthropod in the world, taking approximately four to eight years to reach maturity, weighing anything up to 17kgs and growing to around one meter in length. Their strong pincers are what they use for cracking open the coconuts and the reason they got their name of ‘Coconut Crabs’. The crab has eight legs in all, after the two pincers, come the next two legs that also have claws which enable the crab to climb coconut trees. The next pair of legs has different uses while the last pair are used to clean out the breathing organs.

The coconut crab will mate during the months of May to September and during this time, they will fight each other. The eggs will be released by the female into the sea when it is high tide. As said earlier, it is only at this time, the beginning of their lives, that they live in the sea. They leave the sea a month later to live on the land using the coconut shells to protect them selves until their own shells harden.

Being nocturnal, the coconut crab generally comes out at night to forage for food and are also known as the ‘Robber Crab’ as there have been many reports of them stealing shiny objects such as pots and pans from porches and tents. The crabs are known to live underground or in furrows where they line it with coconut husk creating a sort of nest to keep up the humidity in order to stop their bodies from drying out.

The top of the list of the diet of crabs is obviously coconut, but they also eat fruits leaves and tortoise eggs. They crack open the coconuts they find on the ground with their large pincers eating the flesh that they manage to scrape out. They are able to climb trees to access the coconuts by cutting it in such a way that it will fall to the ground. They have a very good sense of smell which helps them to locate rotting food a good distance away. Coconut crabs live in areas around the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and are a delicacy with a flavor very similar to lobster. The coconut crab is not poisonous, but in different regions they eat certain plants which contain mild toxins which build up in the body that may account for the aphrodisiac qualities that are said to come from eating this crab.

These crabs are sold in places like Tokyo while they are still small as pets, but a strong cage is required to stop them making their escape to freedom. It is said that if one pinches you with its pincers, the way to encourage it to release you is to tickle it’s under belly, but the best way is to not let it pinch you in the first place. Like so many other animals and creatures, the Coconut Crab is in danger of extinction, however there are some groups that have been formed in order to work towards the prevention of extinction of this unique creature.

Patty Brown

Photo : Internet   Category : Stories

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