hermit crab

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Related to Coconut crabs: Amelia Earhart, Saltwater Crocodile

hermit crab

hermit crab, a crustacean distinguished from true crabs by its long, soft, spirally coiled abdomen terminating in an asymmetrically hooked tail. Most hermit crabs protect this vulnerable portion of their bodies by occupying the empty shells of periwinkles, whelks, and other gastropod mollusks. A few find other homes; for example, a species that inhabits the Indian Ocean lives in sections of old bamboo cane. When the hermit crab grows out of one shell it seeks a larger one, fighting for it if challenged. Sea anemones often attach themselves to these shells, obtaining free transportation and scraps of food in return for protecting their hosts. Hermit crabs are common beach scavengers in most parts of the world.

Most species are marine, but some tropical forms, such as the coconut, or robber, crab, Birgus latro, are largely terrestrial. This species, the largest hermit crab, has a body that may reach 16 in. (40 cm) in length, with legs that span 3 ft (.91 m) or more. It becomes increasingly terrestrial and develops heavy armor as it matures into an adult, at which stage it is able to completely discard its adopted shell. With its great pincers it has been known to crack coconuts, which it obtains by climbing palm trees. Coconut crabs also have been observed preying on birds as large as a booby.

Hermit crabs are classified in the phylum Arthropoda, subphylum Crustacea, order Decapoda.

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hermit crab

[′hər·mət ‚krab]
(invertebrate zoology)
The common name for a number of marine decapod crustaceans of the families Paguridae and Parapaguridae; all lack right-sided appendages and have a large, soft, coiled abdomen.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

hermit crab

any small soft-bodied decapod crustacean of the genus Pagurus and related genera, living in and carrying about the empty shells of whelks or similar molluscs
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Above: Also known as robber crabs, coconut crabs can grow to more than a yard across and weigh up to 10 pounds.
Biologist Shin-ichiro Oka had observed wild coconut crabs near his lab in Okinawa, Japan.
To do that, he and his team studied 29 wild coconut crabs.
It seems no aquarium can hold this coconut crab, which has claws like bolt-cutters.
Coconut crabs climb palm trees to get coconuts to eat.
Since Earhart went missing, several theories have made the rounds, with the latest one blaming coconut crabs for eating the pilot's remains after her plane crash-landed on Nikumaroro, or Gardner Island.
"All small bones have been removed by giant coconut crabs which have also damaged larger ones.
Harry Jaminola also exposed us to the very succulent coconut crabs from Pola, Mindoro Oriental.
"Five more coconut crabs came to the site within 20 minutes, likely cueing in on the blood with their neurologically acute olfactory sense.
Along with being incredibly strong, coconut crabs can also use their claws to pinch with greater force than exerted by the punches of amateur boxers, or the bite of almost all land-living animals.