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What is the Voyage of the Odyssey Track the Voyage Interactive Ocean Class from the Sea Patrick Stewart
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When a hermit crab locates a shell, it slips its abdomen out of the old shell and quickly into the new one. If the fit is good, the hermit is on its way. Sometimes, hermit crabs may pull one another from desirable shells. If a match is uneven, one crab, having been intimidated by another, will voluntarily leave the shell without a fight and go in seach of another, a very dangerous voyage for these highly edible crabs.
Photo: Genevieve Johnson

November 15, 2000
The Land Hermit Crab
Real Audio


Log Transcript

This is Genevieve Johnson talking to you from Kiribati in the tropical pacific. How utterly laborious to be required to drag ones home wherever you go. The mere thought of it is tiring in itself. When you actually take the time to consider the fact that this is the only way of life the hermit crab knows, we can better appreciate the efforts of this small crab. On second thought, the crew of the Odyssey can relate quite closely to this lifestyle, like the hermit crab, we also take out home with us where ever we go.

The land hermit crab is vibrant, orange in color and seeks refuge in abandoned sea snail shells; which they scavenge along the seashore and tide pools, exchanging for larger models, several times during their life as they grow. Hermit crabs appear to be a permanent fixture of the land and seascape of pacific atolls. We have encountered them alone or in small groups at the waters edge, high on the shoreline and in groups of more than 100 piled on top of one another under driftwood, in the ongoing struggle for shade from the blazing equatorial sun. We even find them far back in the desert scrub, where they hide in burrows amongst nesting terns and boobies.

At the first sign of a threat, we watched these crabs withdraw into their shell, closing their legs inward, the claws, also used as the first pair of walking legs, forming a hard almost impenetrable barrier in the shell opening. Despite the protection of their borrowed shells, larger crabs, octopus, and wrasses prey upon smaller hermits, as well as other reef fishes with jaws for crushing shelled invertebrates. The hermit crab's abdomen is soft and curved to fit the shell, which will help protect it from predators. Hermit crabs have five pairs of legs, the first pair is modified into claws and the last two pairs anchor the crab's body within the shell by holding on.

When a hermit crab locates a shell, it carefully checks the inside and outside of the new prospect with its antennae and claws. Then, releasing its anchoring limbs from the old shell, it slips its abdomen out of the old shell and quickly into the new one. If the fit is good, the hermit is on its way; if not, it quickly transfers back to the old shell. Sometimes, hermit crabs may pull one another from desirable shells, if a match is uneven one crab having been intimidated by another will voluntarily leave the shell with out a fight and go in seach of another, a very dangerous voyage for these highly edible crabs The number of available shells on the shore or on reef flats is very important to the survival of hermit crabs and can limit their numbers. So, all of us should leave all seashells, even empty ones, where hermit crabs can reach them.

Log by Genevieve Johnson

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