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Coenobitidae: The Hermit Crabs

May 28, 2013

This is a Hermit Crab:

Photo Credit: WIKIMEDIA

Terrestrial Hermit Crabs (such as the family Coenobitidae) make popular terrarium pets and are well known for their living arrangements. Hermit Crabs do not produce their own shells; instead, they move into whatever shell that they can find as they grow larger. Some varieties of Hermit Crab live at the bottom of the ocean, but differ slightly from their terrestrial cousins.

Hermit Crabs commonly move into old snail shells, many of which can be found at the bottom of the ocean. On land, however, these shells are harder to come by. This is the root of the first difference between the land and sea dwelling varieties. On land, Hermit Crabs will dig out more space into the shells they find, enlarging the inside to get more use of them since they are so hard to find.

Another interesting difference between terrestrial Hermit Crabs and the ocean dwelling variety is that they are far more social. While many benefits have been associated with a social lifestyle, such as protection from predators and easier access to mates, it seems the Hermit Crab has a different agenda.

Because shells are so hard to come by on land, it makes sense that the Hermit Crabs would tend to socialize. When it is time for a Hermit Crab to move out, he will simply go over to his neighbour, grab onto his shell, and try to steal it. When the other crabs see this, they will line up, hoping to get the attacking crab’s old shell when he succeeds. Once he has acquired his new home, all the crabs in the line will simultaneously take the old shell from the crab in front of them, and give their own to the crab behind them. This will leave one crab with a shell that is much too small, and will most likely not be able to defend himself unless he can find a new snail shell.

For more on Hermit Crabs:


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  1. Poem: The Hermit Crab | awellseasonedbook

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