Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hermit crabs

If any crab could be called endearing, the hermit crab would be. They just don't seem as irritable or menacing as other crabs--at least not toward people. 

Maybe they don't seem crabby because they are not true crabs. Their abdominal legs differ: a hermit's final two pairs of legs are modified to hook into their mobile-home shell--helping, along with the abdomen's coil, to hold the animal in place. 

With their nether bits tucked away, you might wonder how hermit crabs mate (you were wondering this, right?). It's all about timing: hermit crabs have to hook up while a female is molting. 

Itty bitty hermit crabs
Photo by 
Jeremiah Blatz     
Therefore, during breeding season when a male finds a female, he'll grasp the opening of her shell with his small left claw and lug her around for days if he has to, warding off other males with his large claw. 

When the female finally molts, the mating makes them vulnerable and hasty. Both animals pull nearly out of their shells, and the male quickly deposits sperm on the female's abdomen. She'll later use the sperm to fertilize her eggs as they are laid. 

Eventually the hatched young leave their mother's shell in search of suitable lodging in an unoccupied shell--a lifelong occupation as the little animals molt and grow.

Have you ever encountered hermit crabs--little or big--on a beach or tide pool?

3 comments:

  1. Poor momma crab - all those kids in the shell with her. Imagine trying to get the last one to leave. He's in the basement with his computer, he's 32 years old. He doesn't pay rent or do chores or even do his own laundry. And where's she going to find a male that will drag her around with all that added weight? She's just going to have to run away from home and leave him behind.


    Or the other scenario, where the male finds a hot little female, drags her around for days, She molts, they mate, and she takes over his house, leaving him vulnerable and desperate for a new shell. Metaphor for male menopause and the trophy wife.

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  2. Nature finds a way once again. I would like a whole book of these stories. I wonder.....are they "hasty?" or "tasty?"

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  3. Roxie, you just run with these things, doncha?!

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