Coconut Crab (Birgus latro)

Coconut Crab Facts:
  • Scientific name - Birgus latro
  • Other names - robber crab, palm thief, terrestrial hermit crab.
  • Island local names - unga or kaveu in the Cook Islands, ayuyu in the Marianas.
  • Largest land-living anthropod in the world.
  • They are the only species of the genus Birgus.
  • They can live more than 30 years.
Coconut Crab Physical Features:
  • 4 body regions: cephalic lobe, forepart, trunk, & opisthosoma.
  • Body length - up to 40 cm.
  • Weight - up to 4.1 kg (9.0 lb).
  • Leg span - > 0.91 m (3.0 ft).
  • Males bigger than females.
  • Crabs use a special organ called a branchiostegal lung to breathe; they will drown in water.
  • Also have an additional rudimentary set of gills.
Coconut Crab Habits:
  • Famous for being able to crack open a coconut with its great pincers.
  • Inhabits the coastal forest regions of many Indo-Pacific islands.
  • Mostly nocturnal crabs, remaining hidden during the day.
  • Highly apomorphic hermit crab.
  • Live alone in underground burrows and rock crevices.
  • The burrows contain fibers of the coconut husk which it uses as bedding.
Coconut Crab Reproduction:
  • Coconut crabs mate on dry land.
  • Female crab lays her eggs & glues them to the underside of her abdomen.
  • These fertilized eggs are carried underneath for several months.
  • When hatching time approaches she releases the eggs into the ocean at high tide.
  • The hatched crab larvae float in the pelagic zone of the ocean with the other plankton.
  • Once the larvae reach the glaucothoe stage of development, they settle to the ocean bottom, find and then wear a 'house' shell, and start migrating to the shoreline.
  • As they grow, the crabs change their shell like other hermit crabs.
  • They eventually leave the ocean for good & lose the ability to breathe in water.
Coconut Crab Locations:
  • Live in areas from the Indian to the central Pacific Ocean.
  • Christmas Island has the largest population in the world.
  • Found on the Seychelles, i.e. Aldabra, the Glorioso Islands, Astove Island, Assumption Island and Cosmoledo.
  • Inhabit several of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal.
  • Populations also on Chagos Archipelago (British Indian Ocean Territories, BIOT).
  • The Cook Islands, especially Pukapuka, Suwarrow, Mangaia, Takutea, Mauke, Atiu, & Palmerston Island have large populations.
  • The Line Islands of Kiribati also have coconut crabs, esp. on Teraina (Washington Island) & Caroline Island.
Coconut Crab Popular Culture:
  • Suggested that legendary aviatrix Amelia Earhart's body was devoured by coconut crabs on an island called Nikumaroro.
  • "If Amelia died on Nikumaroro, her body was eaten by crabs. That's pretty much a given,” Richard Gillespie (TIGHAR).

Image Credit - by Drew Avery (cc)

Posted by ALCHEssMIST.
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